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Brenton Twist


Job title and place of work

PhD Student at Auckland University working at NIWA Wellington.

What is your role in the CARIM project? What work package are you contributing to?

I am working on documenting crucial baseline information on coralline algae along with my supervisor Wendy Nelson (with funding through MPI biodiversity project) and am contributing to RA4.  

Coralline algae is a red seaweed that is vulnerable to the impacts of ocean acidification due to the presence of calcium carbonate in their cell walls. The algae are a major component of reefs from the tropics to the poles, being important in supporting and stabilising reef structures, and acting as a settlement cue for invertebrate larvae (e.g. Pāua).  

Baseline information on the number of species, distribution and potential associations with particular habitat types or species assemblages for coralline algae species is very limited for New Zealand. This Information may be important in monitoring impacts of ocean acidification, which could have a range of negative consequences for coralline algae, and in turn flow on effects to the entire coastal reef ecosystem.

What do you do on an average work day?

An average day could start out in the field, in the lab or behind the computer. In the field this can involve SCUBA diving to collect samples or collecting intertidally in remote locations in southern New Zealand. Lab work can involve looking at specimens under the microscope to extracting DNA from samples.   

Why is studying coastal acidification important?

Coastal areas are very productive regions of the ocean and provide a range of services. Acidification combined with warming will cause fundamental changes to these coastal ecosystems by altering many biological processes. The research undertaken will enable the monitoring, prediction and understanding of the effects of ocean acidification.       

What study did you do at high school? And after high school?

At high school I focused on the science subjects (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths). I then went on to do A BSc in Zoology and Marine Science at Otago University, followed by a Masters degree in Marine Science working on scallops.

What outcomes from CARIM do you think there will be?

The data being collected is important in building baseline information for marine coastal communities and gives the opportunity for continued monitoring and detection of change. Additionally, some aspects of the research being undertaken may enable better predictions about the future effects of ocean acidification.

What excites you about working on this project?

The opportunity to work with leading scientists and a range of community members to provide important information that may help with the further management and awareness on the potential impacts of ocean acidification. Additionally, my research is providing exciting insights into the scale of diversity of coralline algae in New Zealand. 

Where do you think your contribution to CARIM and your experience as part of this project will lead you to?

This project will help with the further development of a wide range of skills (both ecological and taxonomic based skills). It will also provide great opportunities to build and develop relationships with a range of scientist and members involved with this project. I am hopeful that this research, as part of the CARIM project, will provide many future opportunities to continue research in this field after the completion of my PhD.