Carmen da Silva

Acclimation capacity of intertidal fish: anticipating tolerance to climate change

PhD Candidate

Primary supervisor: Robbie Wilson

Co-supervisor: Cynthia Riginos

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Research History and Interests

BSc Marine Biology (graduated 2014) Flinders University, SA

BSc Honours 1st (graduated 2015) Flinders University, SA




  1. da Silva CRB, Wilson RS and Riginos C (2019) Rapid larval growth is costly for post-metamorphic thermal performance in a Great Barrier Reef fish. Coral Reefs, pp 1-13

  2. da Silva CRB, Riginos C and Wilson RS (2019) An intertidal fish shows thermal acclimation despite living in a rapidly fluctuating environment. Journal of Comparative Physiology B, Link to paper

  3. Shokri Bousjein N, Staines M, Vo M, Puiu N, da Silva CRB, Harrington J, Wilkinson S, Pratt K, Schwarz MP (2017) Sex ratios in a socially parasitic bee and implications for host – parasite interactions. Journal of Insect Behaviour, doi: 10.1007/s10905-017-9603-7

  4. Silva DP, Groom SVC, da Silva CRB, Stevens MI, Schwarz MP (2016) Potential pollination maintenance by an exotic allodapine bee under climate change scenarios in the Indo-Pacific region. Journal of Applied Entomology.

  5. da Silva CRB, Stevens MI, Schwarz MP (2015) Casteless sociality in an allodapine bee and evolutionary losses of social hierarchies. Insectes Sociaux, doi: 10.1007/s0040-015-0436-0

  6. da Silva CRB, Groom SVC, Stevens MI, Schwarz MP (2015) Current status of the introduced allodapine bee Braunsapis puangensis (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in Fiji. Austral Entomology.


A little about me

I grew up in a biology intensive house hold. We had heaps of pets, I was sent to bug summer camps at the botanical gardens and would recite information about chipmunk nipples back to my friends at school. I went through a mildly rebellious stage where I wanted to become a pro tennis player instead of becoming a scientist, but unfortunately/fortunately for me that didn’t last too long. It has been my dream to become a marine biologist since going to Lizard Island with my mum in my last year of high school to assess anemone bleaching. Now I am continuing my pursuit to become a marine biologist but with more of an evolutionary and thermal physiology point of view. 


Current PhD research

I am currently studying thermal performance in intertidal gobies (Bathygobius cocosensis). The first chapter of my PhD assessed the acclimation capacity and performance breadth of gobies that experience equal daily and seasonal thermal variation in their natural habitats. Generally, animals that experience a large amount of daily thermal variation will have wide thermal performance curves, but little capacity for acclimation. I found that these gobies have the capacity to acclimate to seasonal conditions despite the large amount of daily thermal variability they experience and have wide thermal performance to allow survival in a fluctuating thermal environment. 


My second chapter assessed how larval traits affect thermal performance of juvenile fish. There has been debate on if larval traits are de-coupled with later life stages to allow separate adaptation to particular environments, or if larval life traits are passed onto later life stages. I assessed the acute thermal performance of juvenile fish and then compared their performance with larval traits (PLD, growth rate, settlement size) collected from their otoliths (fish ear stones). I found that larvae with fast growth rates had lower juvenile routine metabolic rates and burst swimming speeds.

My third chapter assesses the effect of acclimation on the rate of colour change. B. cocosensis can change colour as a method of camouflage at a very rapid rate. It is currently known that rate of colour change is dependent on thermal conditions, however, no previous studies have tested if rate of colour change can acclimate to seasonal conditions. 


In the near future, I will be travelling to Arizona State University to learn how to model species distributions with their thermal physiology and projected climate change scenarios. I am predicted to complete my PhD in March 2019.


Honours research

My honours work was in Mike Schwarz’s lab on the evolution of social behaviour in bees. The particular system I worked on was an invasive allodapine bee species recently introduced to Fiji from India. I went to Fiji three times over 2014 and 2015 to collect data and help new students with their projects. We were lucky enough to travel all over Fiji’s largest island Viti Levu collecting samples from coastal and mountain regions. The allodapine bees I worked on were stem-nesting bees, which made collection quite easy. Other projects were on native Fijian Homalictus bees which are ground nesters, making collection much more exhausting! Working in Fiji was extremely exciting, exploring jungle so thick you can hardly pass through and also super rewarding as huge amounts of data can be extracted from nest groups that tell interesting stories about the bee’s social evolution and ecology.


Saving Nemo

I am currently the Queensland Project Coordinator for Saving Nemo. We are a not for profit group that focuses on marine ornamental conservation through education, citizen science, breeding programs and research. The release of Finding Nemo drastically increased sales of clownfish and other marine ornamental fish, which also increased collection from the wild for the aquarium trade. Increased collection from the reef adds pressure on marine ornamental populations and has even caused local extinctions in some areas. We are planning trips around the country later this year to launch our new IC-ANEMONE app and teach primary school kids about the importance of marine conservation.