Carmen da Silva

Acclimation capacity of intertidal fish: anticipating tolerance to climate change


PhD Candidate

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BSc Marine Biology (2011-2013) Flinders University, South Australia

BSc Honours 1st (2014) Flinders University, South Australia    

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Research History

My undergraduate and honours at Flinders University in South Australia was full of exciting under water activities and adventures. One of the highlights was going to Whyalla for the giant cuttlefish breeding every year where we would watch the world’s largest cephalopod mating aggregation! Giant alpha males would flash their bright colours to attract females and small sneaker males would disguise themselves as females to attempt sneaky copulations when the females least expected it, an amazing system to watch!  There are many other interesting animals to find in South Australian waters including leafy sea dragons, pygmy seahorses, blue ringed octopuses, pyjama squid and huge pods of dolphins! 


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 hardily 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.  


I am currently half way through my PhD in the Wilson Performance Lab. I am assessing how daily and seasonal thermal variation affects thermal acclimation capacity (how well an individual can change its underlying physiology to survive in a changed environment) in an intertidal goby (Bathygobius cocosensis). To do this I use performance testing! An exciting performance test I have recently conducted is the rate of background matching (colour change) after prolonged thermal exposure at different temperatures. Using a calibrated camera I can model the gobies rate of colour change through the eyes of a potential predator. This allows me to understand how acclimation affects rate of colour change at different temperatures, and if the way they change colour is actually significant to a potential predator. 

Saving Nemo

I am currently involved with the Saving Nemo conservation fund. We are a not for profit group that focuses on marine ornamental conservation through education, breeding programs and research. The release of Findng 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.



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

2.     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.

3.     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

4.     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.