profilepic_2015
Postdoctoral researcher

Linacre College

Email: catherine.head@zoo.ox.ac.uk

Research Interests

Ever since learning to SCUBA dive over fifteen years ago I have been fascinated by the complexity of life on coral reefs.   I am particularly interested in how biodiversity affects ecosystem function, the evolution and ecological processes that underpin community structure, and how human disturbance acts on these processes.  To investigate these topics I use both morphological and molecular methods to identify species richness, such as environmental DNA and metabarcoding techniques.

Much of my current research is focused around the Chagos Archipelago, a British overseas territory in the Indian Ocean. Chagos is the world’s largest no-take marine protected area and contains some of the healthiest reefs in the world; hence it is an extremely important scientific reference site for coral reef studies. Study sites in Chagos allow me to set a baseline against which I can compare other reefs of varying health from across the Indo-Pacific.

For my PhD research I studied the biodiversity of shallow water coral reef cryptofauna, the small often hidden animals that live within the reef structure, and the processes that drive the community structure of these organisms. My research builds on my experience working in coral reef conservation over the last decade or more.  Reefs are extremely threatened by local and global human impacts, with approx. 75% of reefs threatened globally.  In order to help managers and local communities improve protection of their reefs and increase reef resilience to global impacts it is vital that we understand how all components of biodiversity respond to human disturbance and the mechanisms behind this.

 

Recent Publications

  • Head.C.E.I, Bonsall.M, Koldewey.H, Pratchett.M.S, Speight.M, Rogers.A.D (2015) High prevalence of obligate coral-dwelling decapods on dead corals in the Chagos Archipelago, central Indian Ocean. Journal of Coral Reefs. 34:3. DOI 10.1007/s00338-015-1307-x.
  • Roche RC, Pratchett MS, Carr P, Turner JR, Wagner D, Head C, Sheppard CRC (2015) Localized outbreaks of Acanthaster planci at an isolated and unpopulated reef atoll in the Chagos Archipelago. Marine Biology 162:1695-1704.
  • Curnick.D, Head.C.E.I, Crabbe.J, Gollock.M, Harding.S, Hoeksema.B, Koldewey.H, Johnson.K, Jones.R, Obura.D, Rosen.B, Smith.D, Taylor.M, Turner.J, Wren.S, Redding.D (2015) Setting Evolutionary-based conservation priorities for a phylogenetically data-poor group (Scleractinia). Journal of Animal Conservation 18. DOI 10.1111/acv.12185.

Education & Employment History

 

Oct 2011 – Oct 2015

PhD Candidate.
Project: Community Structure of Coral Associates in the Chagos Archipelagos, Central Indian Ocean (NERC Case funded). Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, & Zoological Society of London.

Oct 2009 – Oct 2011
EDGE Coral Reef Project Co-ordinator. Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
I developed a new capacity-building coral reef initiative within the EDGE of Existence conservation programme.

July – Sept 2009
Volunteer Research Assistant. Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS).
I managed an experiment and completed the Coral Reef Ecology Course.

2008 – 2009
Team Co-ordinator, Equities Sale team. HSBC headquarters, Canary Wharf.

2005 – 2008
Project Scientist and Science Officer in Tobago, Science Officer in Southern Leyte, Philippines, & Science Internship, London Head office. Coral Cay Conservation (CCC).
A series of contracts with CCC, assisting and managing the science programmes in the field.

Sept 2003 – Aug 2004
MSc Biological Sciences. Royal Holloway, University of London.
12-month thesis project: Impact of the Non-Native American Mink on British Wildlife.

Sept 2000 – June 2003
BSc Zoology.  Royal Holloway, University of London.
Thesis project: The effects of the endocrine disrupter, Benzo(a)pyrene, on Zebrafish Early Life Stages.

Expedition & Fieldwork Experience

 

March- April 2015
Chagos 2015 Scientific Expedition. Aboard Pacific Marlin. 
Undertook coral reef surveys using SCUBA and collected cryptofauna samples from across the Chagos Archipelago as part of my PhD research.

June – August 2013
Madagascar PhD fieldwork
Undertook coral reef surveys using SCUBA and collected cryptofauna samples from Nosy Be and Andavadoaka (Blue Ventures).

March – April 2013
Chagos 2013 Scientific Expedition. Aboard Pacific Marlin. 
Undertook coral reef surveys using SCUBA and collected cryptofauna samples from across the Chagos Archipelago as part of my PhD research.

Feb – March 2012
Chagos 2012 Scientific Expedition. Aboard Pacific Marlin. 
Undertook coral reef surveys using SCUBA and collected cryptofauna samples from across the Chagos Archipelago as part of my PhD research.

Sept 2011
St. Vincent & the Grenadines Survey Expedition. Zoological Society of London.
Undertook coral reef ecological surveys and socio-economic research to establish the status of reefs in SVG.

Sept 2006
Polillo Islands, Philippines, pilot expedition. Coral Cay Conservation. 
2-week expedition surveying remote, previously undocumented coral reef in collaboration with Polillo Island Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc.