Curtis is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Liverpool. He completed his PhD in aquatic ecology at Queen Mary University of London, and also holds a first class honours degree in Zoology from the University of Exeter, including a Dean's commendation for outstanding academic achievement. His field of expertise are in aquatic and terrestrial ecology, particularly macro-ecology and meta-analysis, and marine biology, including sea turtle biology and conservation.
Prior to his degree Curtis trained as a Coral Reef Research Diver in the Seychelles, conducting in-water assessments of hard coral recovery and recruitment using SCUBA.
The data collected was submitted to the United Nations Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and its Global Coral Disease Database.
He also assisted the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS) and the Nature Protection Trust of the Seychelles (NPTS) with in-water sea turtle surveys and nesting surveys.
Curtis' education at the University of Exeter led him to work with the Marine Turtle Research Group in Northern Cyprus, first as a volunteer and then as a team leader.
He gained experience in animal tagging and biopsy sampling, was a public speaker on behalf of MTRG, and represented the project at the British High Commission in Cyprus.
Curtis also had the opportunity to pursue his own research in Cyprus, examining the effects of temperature variation on the body size of hatchling Loggerhead sea turtles.
Curtis continues to investigate the effects of warming on aquatic organisms. His research examines the mechanisms and drivers of the Temperature-Size Rule; a phenomenon in cold blooded animals where individuals reared at warmer temperatures mature at smaller body sizes.
Furthering our understanding of the TSR will aid us in predicting how climate warming is likely to impact different species, and will help us to better explain the body size patterns we see in nature.
Climate related size shifts in aquatic species:
mechanism, prediction and mitigation
The size at which a species matures can change depending on the environment. Shifts in the size of animals and size-spectra of biological communities as a result of climate change are likely to have worldwide ecological and economic impacts. In ectotherms, individuals of the same species regularly grow to a smaller adult body size in the warm than in the cold. This near-universal biological phenomenon, known as the Temperature-Size Rule (TSR), occurs in over 80% of ectothermic species, from bacteria to fish and amphibians.
With average global temperatures predicted to rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, reduced body size has been described as the third universal response to climate warming.
Reductions in body size with warming are much greater for aquatic species than for species living on land. This has been attributed to oxygen availability, which is much more limiting in water than in air. Consequently, aquatic species struggle most to meet their metabolic demands in the warm, and growing to a smaller adult size is thought to be an adaptive response to cope. Reduced oxygen availability, independent of temperature, has also been shown to decrease size at maturity. Deoxygenation is increasing in geographic extent and severity in regions of the world's oceans and in freshwater systems, and is predicted to significantly worsen over the coming decades.
Climate warming combined with reductions in oxygen concentrations presents a double jeopardy to aquatic species. There has never been a more urgent need to quantify, understand, predict and develop mitigation strategies to deal with warming and oxygen-induced changes in body size in aquatic ecosystems.
This project aims to tackle these issues by addressing the following key questions:
Q1. How do changes in temperature and oxygen concentration affect body size responses in aquatic species and how are responses impacted by the interaction of these two parameters?
Q2. How have body sizes changed in aquatic species in relation to temperature and oxygen availability over recent decades? Are these responses similar to patterns observed in the laboratory and across seasons and latitudes? We cannot rely on laboratory and seasonal estimates to predict future shifts in size. Describing body size changes over decades in natural populations is a critical next step, and importantly, will increase the accuracy and reliability of our predictions.
Q3. What are the most important traits (feeding mode, reproductive strategy, mortality risk etc.) associated with variation in the strength of temperature- and oxygen-induced changes in adult body size, and can we use this information to accurately predict body size change in the future? Are some species more sensitive than others?
Q4. Does body size reduction with warming fully compensate for increased metabolic demand at higher temperatures, and how might this affect the total productivity and efficiency of transfer from food to flesh that can be supported in warmer conditions? Can we use this information to contribute to informed decision making in the aquaculture and fisheries industries?
More information about the project, related research, collaborators and publications can be found at:
PUBLICATIONS & PRESENTATIONS
Curtis combines his passion for ecology with a keen eye for nature's unique moments of beauty, to capture stunning images of the natural world. His photos have been published by The Guardian, The Royal Society, and shared by The Wildlife Trusts.