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 Kathryn Whittey

Kathryn Whittey

Research student,

Siarad Cymraeg


For my PhD reserach I use 3D modelling, metagenomics, artifiical reefs and behavioural observations to gain knowledge and understanding of cleaner fish habitat, commensal microbes and behaviour.


Research interests

Current research

Coral reefs are one of the most diverse habitats on Earth, hosting more species per unit area than any another marine system. This biodiversity is driven by the high structural complexity of reefs, which is created by corals. Globally, corals are in severe decline and so understanding their role in ecological interactions, such as in cleaning mutualisms, is important for planning future mitigations against coral loss. Using 3D modelling and behavioural observations my research quantifies how coral shape is important to cleaner fish. This work has led to the development of an artificial reef project in collaboration with local fishermen and NGO (ERIC - Environmental Research Institute Charlottesville) called Fish Hives, which we are piloting at our long-term study site in Tobago. We continue to monitor these Fish Hives for colonisation by coral, and use by reef fish.

In addition to cleaner fish behaviour I am also interested in their gut and skin microbiota. An individual’s microbial community is known to play a pivotal role in an organism’s health, from nutritional acquisition to immunity and behaviour. In addition, to combine my interest in microbiota and cleaner fish habitat one of my research questions asks whether there is any sharing of microbiota between the cleaners and their coral habitat.

My research is funded by KESS (Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships) and I work in collaboration with Professor Jo Cable, Dr Sarah E. Perkins, Dr Katie Dunkley, Dr Grace C. Young, the Hydrous, (ERIC, Tobago) and Khepri Wildlife Services and Consulting.


Dr Sarah E. Perkins and Professor Jo Cable (Cardiff University)


3D model analysis tutorial: