Dr Renata Ferrari Legorreta
PhD, The University of Queensland, 2012
Spatial Marine Ecology Lab
David Edgeworth Bld, (A11)
Science Road, Camperdown
The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
|Telephone||(0) 2 9351 5252|
Marine Spatial Ecology Lab
ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies
Australian Centre for Field Robotics - Marine
Career and Qualifications
2008 – 2013 PhD | University of Queensland and Exeter | AUS and UK
2008 – Present Tutor (graduate level) | University of Queensland and Exeter | AUS and UK
2007 – 2008 SrMarineBiologist| ToledoInstituteDevelopmentandEnvironment| BELIZE
2007 – 2007 Environmental Education Coordinator | Miami University | US & DOMINICAN REP
2006 – 2007 Research Associate | Exeter and Miami University| BAHAMAS and BELIZE
2005 – 2008 Sr Research Leader | CocoPlumb, Oceanic Society and Seagrassnet | BELIZE
2005 – 2006 Marine Biologist | Friends of Nature | Belize
2005 – 2005 Research assistant | Project for the conservation of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System | MEXICO, BELZE, GUATEMALA and HONDURAS
2004 – 2005 Volunteer | Isla Contoy National Park | MEXICO
1999 – 2004 Bachelor of Science (Honors) | Universidad de las Americas | MEXICO
2001 – 2004 Biologist | Universidad de las Americas and Xcaret Aquarium | MEXICO
1999 – 2000 Research Assistant | Jungla Magica Dolphinarium| MEXICO
Quantitative Marine Ecology
The emphasis of my research is to produce data that can be used for management and conservation of marine ecosystems. My PhD had an extensive fieldwork component (15 months), which produced a unique data set, combining high frequency sampling over a prolonged experimental period. This data was incorporated into coral population models and will enable management recommendations to be made for Caribbean coral reefs. Specifically, my PhD looked at ecological processes influencing alternate states in coral reefs, targeting questions like: how herbivory varies with fine scale reef structural complexity? What is the role of species, size and competition intensity in the battle between corals and macroalgae? And what is the influence of herbivory and season on the spatial and temporal change of macroalgal patch dynamics?
As a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Sydney, I work with a multidisciplinary group to understand the benthic dynamics of the marine habitats inside and outside marine protected areas, as well as their trajectory and change, with an emphasis on spatial and temporal patterns of biodiversity and processes. The multidisciplinary nature of the team translates into working with the most complete data sets gathered through novel technologies, such as AUV stereo imagery. These allow us to ask ecological questions across multiple scales and to incorporate innovative approaches to understanding how key ecosystems function, such as incorporating 3D structural complexity measures as an explanatory variable and possibly a surrogate for biodiversity. This is only possible through collaboration with groups such as the Australian Centre of Field Robotics, the Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences, The University of New South Wales, and the NSW Government Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water of the New South Wales government, among others.
Applied computer vision to marine ecology and conservation
As a Postdoctoral Fellow in between the School of Biological Sciences and the Australian Centre for Field Roboticsat the University of Sydney I dedicate my research to solving real world conservation and ecological problems with a multidisciplinary approach. I rely on the most up to date technology to tackle traditional and emerging marine resource management and research challenges. While all these interwine my main projects are listed below:
Effect of environmental drivers on marine benthic dynamics
The relative importance of physical and ecological processes in driving benthic dynamics is poorly understood. Topographic structural complexity, depth and habitat type are key drivers of benthic dynamics in marine habitats and are often highly correlated to biodiversity and abundance in marine organisms. Understanding the roles of these drivers in deep reefs is therefore integral in determining ecological processes. While depth and habitat type have been shown to be important drivers of benthic dynamics, structural complexity has been more difficult to quantify and investigate. Incorporating structural complexity as a driver of benthic dynamics requires accurate metrics of habitat complexity, which until recently were challenging to obtain. To address this knowledge gap we use leading-edge 3D measurements of structural complexity. We obtained these metrics from 3D models, which were reconstructed from stereo-imagery from Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) and underwater cameras. This project investigates the role of 3D structural complexity, depth, dominant substratum and substratum modifier as drivers of both mobile and non-mobile benthic organisms.
Effect of structural complexity and environemntal drivers on fish abundance and diversity
Topographic structural complexity is highly correlated to biodiversity and abundance in marine habitats, and is therefore integral in determining ecological processes. Organisms living in complex 3-dimensional (3D) environments have a strong affinity for habitat refugia from predation. However, the importance of refugia as a resource in influencing diversity and abundance is not known. Understanding these processes requires accurate measurement of habitat complexity at multiple scales, which until recently were challenging to obtain. To address this knowledge gap we used leading-edge 3D measurement of structural complexity underwater through stereo-imagery obtained from an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle to obtain accurate 3D measures of structural complexity. This project investigates spatial patterns of fish diversity and abundance and how they relate to structural complexity at multiple scales in protected areas along the eastern Australian coast, for example in the Solitary Islands Marine Park.
Collaborative and Automated Tools for Analysis for Marine Imagery and video (CATAMI)
Transforming raw underwater imagery into quantitative information useful for science and policy decisions requires substantial manual effort by human experts. This process is often unsustainable with an increasing volume of marine imagery being collected due to technological advances in image acquisition and resolution. Currently there is a lack of standardisation to the methodology, annotation, classification and analysis of marine imagery. This makes comparison and analysis of images collected from disparate sites and locations challenging. The CATAMI (Collaborative and Annotation Tools for Analysis of Marine Imagery and video) Project aims to help solve some of these issues by working in collaboration with the NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub - Theme 1and the Australian marine research community to develop various web-based software tools.
The main deliverables for the CATAMI Project are to create tools that support:
a) Online data access and browsing;
b) Online analysis and annotation;
c) Automated image classification; and
d) Integration with Australian Ocean Data Network (AODN)
In order to achieve these deliverables a national classification scheme for scoring marine biota and substrata in underwater imagery was created. The conceptual basis for this classification was to create a taxonomy based system that includes morphological categories to take into account the fact that it is not always possible to identify biota to species or genus level from imagery.
CATAMI classification scheme(https://github.com/catami/catami/wiki/CATAMI-Classification-Scheme)
Great Barrier Reef: Quantification of coral reef habitat structural complexity and community composition in a changing ocean using 3D models
Quantification of habitat structure, a fundamental attribute of coral reef resilience, is essential for reef management in a changing ocean. We will use novel technology to quantify habitat structure and community composition by constructing three-dimensional models from stereo-images. This approach quantifies 3D-structural complexity at multiple scales to an unprecedented accuracy. Analysis of images from reefs with different bleaching histories, a proxy to evaluate effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on habitat structure, will show how this approach can be used to monitor reef structure in a changing ocean. Targeted analysis to define a habitat structure metric will contribute to a resilience index.
Bridging the gap between small scale high resolution and large scale low resolution marine studies
Modern marine conservation planning is heavily based on spatial models that predict species distributions, map threats and calculate the most cost effective solution to achieve the highest possible conservation target with the minimum economical investment. These and other important conservation tools rely upon population distribution models, which are most often based on data extrapolation obtained through monitoring programs. These models are useless without data that can represent the larger area under management. Till recently the best available data was that collected in situ, for example benthic transects and quadrats. Nonetheless the assumption that a few transects/quadrats are representative of a larger area is inaccurate. Alternatively, remote sensing can cover large spatial scales, but the resolution of these data is not fine enough to understand ecological processes and patterns that influence an ecosystem’s trajectory. Automated Underwater Vehicles (AUV) and computer vision can cover large areas of underwater habitat and collect data that can be used to characterize benthic populations and measure habitat structural complexity with unparalleled accuracy. This project demonstrates how imagery obtained through either AUV or a diver operated stereo camera can measure habitat complexity underwater, it presents a study case comparing this important environmental driver inside and outside different zones within a marine protected area, the Solitary Islands Marine Park, Australia. We investigated spatial patterns of benthic organisms and how they relate to structural complexity at multiple scales. The imagery was also used to reconstruct 3D models of different habitats, which are a great tool for presentation to stakeholders and outreach exercises. This tool is applied to improving marine protected area management around Australia, and is an example of how conservation challenges are best solved by multidisciplinary teams.
- NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub - Theme 1
- Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences(SIMS)
- Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED),University of Queensland
- Marine Spatial Ecology Lab (MSEL), University of Queensland
- Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARC CoE CRS)
- Australian Coral Reef Society (ACRS)
- Society for Conservation Biology (SCB)
- Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA) – committee adviser & grant reviewer for AMSA-NSW
- Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) – awardee (since 2009) & mentor (since 2013)
- Divers Alert Network (DAN)
- Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)
- NOAA - Coral Reefs Small Grant Reviewer
Awards and honours
Great Barrier Reef Foundation: Resilient Reef Index: Habitat Structure
M Byrne, SB Williams, R Ferrari, W Figueira, T Bridge, A Harborne (2013 -2014)
University of Sydney infrastructure support Remotely Operated Vehicles Grant. SB Williams, O Pizarro, I Manchester, J Webster, R Ferrari (2013 - 2015)
Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation Fellowship (2008 – 2010)
Wildlife Conservation Society Research Fellowship (2009)
Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia: Undergraduate Research Scholarship (2004)
In the media
Recent media impacts:
- Remotely operated vehicle; Williams S, Pizarro O, Manchester I, Webster J, Ferrari Legorreta R; DVC Research/Equipment Grant.