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SEI News: Meet 2017 Honours Research Fellow Jodie Pall

Jodie’s research hopes to address the uncertainties in reef responses to environmental changes and contribute to the body of scientific knowledge that supports political decisions that protect reefs.

We are happy to welcome Jodie Pall to the Sydney Environment Institute family.

Jodie is one of three students to be awarded a Honours Fellowship at the SEI  in 2017 and is undertaking Honours through the School of Geosciences. Get to know Jodie, her research, and interests.

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What are you researching for Honours?

I’m researching the long-term development of coral reefs and the factors that have influenced their current shape and coral composition. This includes intrinsic factors like the growth rates of corals and transport of eroded sediments and extrinsic (I.e. environmental) factors like sea level rise, sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification. The influence of these factors on the shape and composition of reefs are relatively well known for hard corals over shorter time scales, but aren’t well constrained over geological time scales (hundreds to hundreds of thousands of years). Additionally, these controls interact in complicated, non-linear ways that are difficult to quantify from the fossil record, so I will be using a new stratigraphic forward model called PyReef to understand which environmental factors are most important in controlling the architecture of reefs, and how the environmental changes heralded by climate change are likely to affect reefs on millennial time scales.

What are the key environmental issues your research aims to address?

Coral reef decline worldwide has been driven locally by nutrient and sediment stress from agriculture and mining activities and regionally by changes in ocean chemistry that weaken coral skeletons and high-frequency sea surface temperature spikes that cause bleaching. The response of reef ecosystems to these co-amplifying, multi-faceted, climate-change related threats on longer time scales is not well understood.

My research hopes to address the uncertainties in reef response to the aforementioned environmental changes and contribute to the body of scientific knowledge that supports political decisions that protect reefs.

What led you to your research topic? 

Philosophically, I believe the use of numerical modelling to experiment with Earth’s physical processes is a generative and productive way to understand interactions and limits of Earth’s systems as a key to the past and forecast for the future. Modelling has been an enduring interest of mine and the blending of modelling with my life’s other major interest, climate justice, is my long-term goal and what drove me to study reef dynamics.

Apart from research, what are your passions & interests?

I dedicate much of my spare time and passionate energy to supporting and organising as a part of grassroots community campaigns and actions around interconnected environmental and social justice issues, such as the #StopAdani campaign, protecting the Pilliga forest from Santos’ gas drilling led by the Gamilaraay People against CSG and Coal Mining, refugee rights activism led by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) among others, decriminalising abortion in NSW led by the USYD Wom*n’s Collective among others, the No Profit from Rape campaign to save Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia and many campus-based campaigns at USYD to dismantle rape culture, the systemic corporatisation of universities and funding cuts to higher education.

What about SEI made you interested in an Honours Fellowship with us?

SEI broadcasts highly interesting debates and forums that prompt large audiences to consider alternative figurations of politics, our environment, our society and our morals. It is the kind of thought-provoking work that, I find, is rarely presented to a wide audience or in a palatable format. So, I was drawn to SEI because of the motivational power of the content of the events they organised, and secondly because I value how the SEI academics are committed to creative communication of the climate change story from a multitude of perspectives.


Jodie Pall is a 2017 Honours Research Fellow at SEI and a Research Assistant in the School of Geosciences. Her Honours research will investigate the impact of climate change on reef growth in the Great Barrier Reef, using stratigraphic forward modelling. Outside of work, Jodie is a member of many grassroots organisations including the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN) and the #StopAdani campaign, and is deeply committed to climate justice.