Sylvia Hay

Sylvia Hay

Role: PhD Candidate

Contact details:

Phone: +61 2 9385 2066 

Email: sylvia.hay@student.unsw.edu.au

Office: Room 456, D26 Building, UNSW, Kensington 2052

 

Supervisors:

Kim Jenkins

Richard Kingsford

John Gollan

Patrick Driver

 

Research Focus

My research examines the likely effects of climate change on aquatic invertebrate communities in intermittent rivers. Intermittent rivers, or rivers that periodically cease to flow, are the prevalent river type in Australia and occur across many climatic regions. It was  assumed for many years that intermittent rivers have low biodiversity value, however intermittent rivers can support a diverse range of taxa, with aquatic invertebrates pivotal in the 'boom and bust' ecology of these systems. We know little however about the tolerance of aquatic invertebrates to extended drying, the strategies they use, and limits to survival.

Physiological and behavioral strategies to survive drying are being investigated in this project, across different climate types or biomes. These refugial strategies include persistence in pools, aestivation in dry sediment and aerial dispersal.

Over the next century, the importance of understanding intermittent river dynamics will increase in regions that experience drying trends due to climate as well as land-cover change, and increasing water abstraction for human use. This study is part of a wider ARC linkage project comprising innovative approaches to identifying regional responses of biodiversity to climate change. 

This project examines the likely effects of climate change on aquatic invertebrate communities, particularly the role of climate refugia in dryland catchments. I am investigating the roles of variable temperature and flow regimes on fine-scale spatial and temporal patterns of biodiversity. Future work will include laboratory based experimental investigation of invertebrate traits that infer resilience to climate change, including thermal tolerance and dispersal ability. This study is part of a wider ARC linkage project comprising innovative approaches to identifying regional responses of biodiversity to climate change. Building on strong collaborations with industry, the project will generate recommendations for management of refugia in arid-zone river systems.

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