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David Feary

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences



Sept 2014 - Present Lecturer, University of Nottingham.

Jan 2014 - Jul 2014 Research Consultant, The Nature Conservancy (Australia)

Jan 2011 - Jan 2014 Chancellors Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Technology, Sydney (Australia)

Dec 2009 - Nov 2010 Senior Marine Environmental Consultant, URS Corporation (Abu Dhabi)

Aug 2007 - Nov 2009 Senior Postdoctoral Fellow, United Nations University - INWEH (Dubai/Canada)

Jun 2003 - Aug 2007 PhD, James Cook University (Australia)

Expertise Summary

My research career has developed around my passion for understanding natural marine systems, but has been focused on examining the role of natural and anthropogenic change in structuring coral reef fish communities. I have an exceptionally high level of research experience within the field of tropical reef fish community ecology, both in terms of field work experience and laboratory analyses. I have undertaken tropical field and lab research in over a dozen different tropical/subtropical countries, including South East Asia, the wider Pacific and the western Indian Ocean (including the Arabian Peninsula).

Teaching Summary

Recent teaching experience

  • Aquatic Biology in a Changing Environment (C13699) Convener and sole lecturer in 3rd year module: examining the impact of a changing climate on aquatic communities
  • Conservation (C13696) Co-lecturer in 3rd year module, lecturing on climate change and nitrogen cycle
  • Evolution and Behaviour (C13583): Co-lecturer of 3rd year discussion and essay module focusing on contemporary topics in human and animal evolution (University of Nottingham)
  • Applied Environmental Physiology (C13687) Co-lecturer in 3rd year module examining the anthropogenic impact on animal populations and community structure
  • Natural Systems (C12473) Co-lecturer in 2nd year module focusing on understanding biogeography of animal and plant ecosystems
  • Animal Behaviour (C12321): Convener and sole lecturer of 2nd year module focusing on discussing evolution and analysis of animal behaviour (University of Nottingham)
  • Biodiversity field course (C12342) Co-lecturer and convener of residential field course to examine terrestrial biodiversity within Derbyshire (University of Nottingham)

Research Summary

My research focuses on ecosystem conservation, climate change and addressing food security challenges. Despite my early career standing (Ph.D. awarded Sept 2008), I have already published 45… read more

Recent Publications

  • HAYDEN J BECK, DAVID A FEARY, YOHEI NAKAMURA and DAVID J BOOTH, 2016. Wave-sheltered embayments are recruitment hotspots for tropical fishes on temperate reefs Marine Ecology Progress Series. (In Press.)
  • HAYDEN J BECK, DAVID A FEARY, ASHLEY M FOWLER, ELIZABETH MP MADIN and DAVID J BOOTH, 2016. Temperate predators and seasonal water temperatures impact feeding of a range expanding tropical fish Marine Biology. (In Press.)
  • JENNIFER L MCILWAIN, A AMBUALI, N AL JARDANI, ANDREW R HALFORD, HS AL-OUFI and DAVID A FEARY, 2016. Demographic profile of an overexploited serranid, Epinephelus coioides from northern Oman Fishery Bulletin. (In Press.)
  • GEORGENES H CAVALCANTE, DAVID A FEARY and JOHN BURT, 2016. The influence of extreme winds on coastal oceanography and its implications for coral population connectivity in the southern Arabian Gulf Marine Pollution Bulletin. (In Press.)

Current Research

My research focuses on ecosystem conservation, climate change and addressing food security challenges. Despite my early career standing (Ph.D. awarded Sept 2008), I have already published 45 peer-reviewed papers, 3 book chapters and have 5 manuscripts in review (inlcd. within Nature, J. Anim. Ecol. and Global Change Biol.). My research is extremely well received (papers in PNAS [ISI Highly Cited Paper] and within Fish and Fisheries [recommended within the Faculty of 1000 as being of special significance in its field]) and has shown high citation success (1176 citations, h-index of 20). Importantly, my work has been cited in seminal reviews on climate mediated ecological disturbance (Baker et al. 2008 Est Coast Shelf Sci; Graham et al 2008 PLoS ONE) and the climate change impacts on coral reef fish communities (Munday et al. 2008 Fish Fish; Pratchett et al. 2008 OMBAR). My contribution is further evidenced by regular requests to peer-review manuscripts for many interdisciplinary journals (including Glob Change Biol, Func Ecol, Proc B). I have made major contributions to several key areas of conservation and climate change theory and ecology, particularly the following research themes:

Management of ecosystem health and sustainable use of marine community resources - I am a leading authority on quantifying ecosystem health of tropical regions, determining how this structures the conservation of marine communities and the role of adaptive management in sustaining food and economic security. My recent work has been based within the Arabian Gulf region, where I have examined in detail the role of sustainable management practices in structuring highly developed coastal regions, including the potential substantial impact of increasing changes in global climate within this region (2010 Ambio, 2012 The Gulf [edited NOAA sponsored book], 2013 and 2015 Mar Pollut Bull). I have also published key work identifying the mechanisms that result in successful co-management of tropical fisheries (2012 PNAS, 2015 in review Nature), while also determining the ecological and behavioural factors which may increase the vulnerability of marine communities to unsustainable fishing practices (2011 Cons Biol, 2011 PLoS ONE).

Impacts of climate-associated habitat degradation on biological communities and ecosystem processes - In a series of influential papers I have provided new insights into how biological communities respond to climate mediated reductions in coral reef communities. In particular my 2007 MEPS paper revealed for the first time that live coral loss, without change in the physical coral structure, plays a substantial role in structuring the biodiversity of coral reef fish communities; identifying a previously undescribed feedback which may lead to substantial changes in coral reef fish abundance and diversity. My work also provided powerful evidence that a sub-lethal physiological growth response to coral loss may occur in reef fishes (2009 J Exp Mar Biol Ecol). This is the only study examining the effects of coral degradation in structuring individual; growth and persistence, and has significant implications in understanding species-specific reef fish responses to coral degradation events. Recent work has extended the importance of understanding the role of sub-lethal impacts of climate change on marine communities, showing that significant negative impacts on somatic growth occur when species are kept for short periods outside of their climate envelope (2014 J Fish Biol). My research has also quantitatively determined the importance of habitat patch dynamics in structuring fish communities (2007 Mar Biol), providing the first evidence of species-specific differences in habitat persistence result in disproportionate reductions in habitat specialist abundance with coral degradation.

Climate change impacts on recruitment dynamics, early post-settlement processes and range shifts in tropical reef fish communities - My research on the early life history of tropical reef fishes includes three increasingly influential papers that have rigorously quantified the importance of benthic coral reef and temperate reef characteristics in determining the successful settlement and survival of reef fishes, and subsequent adult population structure (2007 Oecologia; 2007 MEPS, In review Global Change Biol). These papers revealed for the first time that population structure of coral reef fish communities were primary associated with distinct habitat characteristics at settlement, independent of the habitat associations of species within the adult stage. Most importantly this work showed that relatively pristine coral habitats were vital for tropical reef fish recruitment, whereas in contrary degraded temperate reef habitats (where macroalgae has reduced) were the most important precursor to successful tropical fish recruitment. In particular, my 2014 Fish Fish paper (and 2014 Proc B) comprehensively showed the importance of species-specific ecological constraints in determining how diversity will be affected by increasing climate change. In particular this paper challenged the widely held view that extrinsic processes are the major influence on latitudinal shifts in fish species. This study revealed for the first time that distinct species-level characteristics will enhance tropical fishes latitudinal shifts.

Future Research

My globally relevant research program has been developed to encompass three broad research themes: (i) Biodiversity loss and economic change within the Mediterranean; (ii) Adaptation of marine communities to extreme environments, and (iii) Climate change adaptation - economics of tropical fisheries and food security.

Temperate marine communities within the Mediterranean: redefining the role of interactive stressors in conserving coastal fisheries This theme addresses a significant and challenging global problem that is affecting temperate marine and terrestrial ecosystems: biodiversity loss following habitat disturbance. It has the potential to lead to a major shift in our understanding of how interacting ecosystem stressors will structure biological communities: which is one of the largest uncertainties in projections of future ecological change. It will provide new knowledge on the ecological triggers of community change, which will aid the future management of marine ecosystems to maintain biodiversity under changing conditions. Finally, using innovative approaches (e.g. drawing on community ecology, and using new advances in physiology and microbial analysis technology), it will address an increasingly urgent unanswered question: How will multiple drivers of ecological change interact to structure biological communities? This is critical for Mediterranean marine biodiversity and maintaining An Environmentally Sustainable European community.

Adaptation and management of marine communities to extreme environments - linking ecological research and social adaptation theory This research theme is part of a multi-institute and multi-national collaboration involving partners from New York University (Abu Dhabi), James Cook University (Australia), Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) focusing on understanding how marine communities have adapted to extreme environments (focusing predominantly on the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea and Singaporean waters of the Indo-Pacific), whether such adaptation will provide resilience to future warming events and the social impacts of such adaptation on fisheries resources and sustainable coastal management. At present my research has been based predominantly on identifying the functional mechanisms within marine communities (based within the Arabian Gulf) that have allowed them to flourish within one of the most thermally extreme environments globally (i.e., >20°C variance in seasonal water temperature), while also working with marine managers and local government authorities to develop and implement sustainable management programs for these communities. My research over the next five years will be focusing on furthering my research examining the physiological and genetic mechanisms that allow animals to adapt to extreme environments, but then utilise this work to develop globally relevant marine management strategies that encompass the role of adaptation in structuring species response to climate change impacts. This work will then develop further into working with local fisheries authorities environmental agencies to develop management strategies that take into account livelihood adaptation, especially utilising social theory on gear and livelihood switching.

Climate change adaptation and conservation of coastal resources - determining the economics of tropical fisheries, sustainability of resources and addressing food and economic security I have been developing my research in understanding the role of tropical fisheries management and behavioural ecology in sustaining coastal communities within an increasing changing climate. This work is exploring the role of coastal management and fisheries development in helping Papua New Guinean communities protect their marine resources, including developing fisheries management strategies that improve sustainability and local livelihoods. This research brings together the national government, provincial governments, and communities of Papua New Guinea to facilitate better management of sea cucumbers (Bêche-de-mer) - Papua New Guinea's most valuable inshore fishery. This work will re-form the management of the country's current ineffective, "top down" management approach, revolutionizing sea cucumber management in Papua New Guinea and giving communities, tribal groups, and provinces the power to manage and trade in their sea cucumber stocks sustainably. This work has already been started with a £140,000, 1 year co-funded grant from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and the Papua New Guinean government - National Fisheries Authority.

School of Life Sciences

University of Nottingham
Medical School
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham NG7 2UH

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