Contact details

Dr Pim Bongaerts
Coral Reef Ecosystems Lab
School of Biological Sciences
The University of Queensland
Gehrmann Laboratories (#60)
St Lucia QLD 4072 Australia



Ms Margaux Carmichael
Ms Amanda Ford
Ms Francisca Vermeulen
Mr Norbert Englebert

Dr Greg Mitchell
Dr Ray Berkelmans
Dr Petra Visser
Dr Mark Vermeij
Dr Tracy Ainsworth
Dr Linda Tonk
Dr Samuel Kahng
Dr David Kline
Dr Sophie Dove
Dr Kyra Hay
Dr Madeleine van Oppen
Dr Eugenia Sampayo
Dr Pedro Frade
Dr Carden Wallace
Dr Paul Muir
Mr Thomas Bridge

People > Pim Bongaerts

Position: Postdoctoral staff
Last update: 04-Sep-2013


Molecular ecology of mesophotic coral ecosystems

The term ‘mesophotic coral ecosystems’ has recently been adopted for the deep, light-dependent coral communities that we find at depths in excess of 30 m (usually confined to a maximum depth of 100-150 m). These communities have received little attention compared to their shallow-water counterparts due to their relative inaccessibility. However, recent technological advances (ROVs, AUVs, technical diving) have sparked a renewed interest in these ecosystems, especially as they seem to be largely protected from several major reef stressors, such as storm events and elevated seawater temperatures. By exploring the molecular ecology of mesophotic coral ecosystems, we hope to get a better understanding of the ability of these deep reef areas to act as refugia and more importantly to re-seed shallow reefs post disturbance.

The research is focusing on two geographic locations: the Great Barrier Reef and secondly the island of Curacao in the Dutch Caribbean. Of particular interest are (1) the genetic connectivity between shallow and deep coral populations and (2) the genetic diversity of the symbiotic algae (Symbiodinium) associated with mesophotic corals.
Keywords: connectivity, deep reef, dgge, ecological speciation, ecology, genetics, mesophotic, population genetics, Symbiodinium, symbiont diversity


PhD Biological Sciences - The University of Queensland (2011)
MSc Limnology and Oceanography - University of Amsterdam - Cum Laude (2006)
BSc Biology - Utrecht University (2004)


The Explorers Club (NY) Grant (2012), Pacific Blue Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowshop (2011), Virginia Chadwick Award - Best Student Papers 2010 (2011), GBR Foundation - Bommies Award 2010 (2011), Australian Geographic Sponsorship Grant (2009), PADI Foundation Grant (2008), Endeavour International Post-Graduate Research Scholarship (IPRS) (2007), Project Aware Foundation Grant (2007), Netherlands-Flemish Ecological Society Award (2006), Schure-Beijerinck-Popping Grant (2006)


Bongaerts P, Frade PR, Ogier JJ, Hay KB, van Bleijswijk J, Englebert N, Vermeij MJH, Bak RPM, Visser PM, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2013) Sharing the slope: depth partitioning of agariciid corals and associated Symbiodinium across shallow and mesophotic habitats (2-60 m) on a Caribbean reef. BMC Evolutionary Biology - in press

Bongaerts P, Muir PR, Bridge TCL, Englebert N, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2013) Cyclone damage at mesophotic depths on Myrmidon Reef (GBR). CORAL REEFS - in press

Tonk L, Bongaerts P, Sampayo EM, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2013) SymbioGBR: a web-based database of Symbiodinium associated with cnidarian hosts on the Great Barrier Reef. BMC Ecology 13: 7-7

Bridge TCL, Hughes TP, Guinotte JM, Bongaerts P (2013) Call to protect all coral reefs. Nature Climate Change 3: 528-530

Bongaerts P, Hoeksema BW, Hay KB, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2012) Mushroom corals overcome live burial through pulsed inflation. CORAL REEFS 2: 399-399

Foster R, Bridge TCL, Bongaerts P (2012) The first record of Hippocampus denise (Syngnathidae) from Australia. Aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology 18: 55-57

Bongaerts P, Riginos C, Hay KB, Van Oppen MJH, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Dove S (2011) Adaptive divergence in a scleractinian coral: physiological adaptation of Seriatopora hystrix to shallow and deep reef habitats. BMC Evolutionary Biology 11: 303-303

Bridge TLC, Fabricius KE, Bongaerts P, Wallace CC, Muir PR, Done TJ, Webster JM (2011) Diversity of Scleractinia and Octocorallia in the mesophotic zone of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. CORAL REEFS 31: 179-189

Bongaerts P, Sampayo EM, Bridge TCL, Ridgway T, Vermeulen F, Englebert N, Webster JM, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2011) Symbiodinium diversity in mesophotic coral communities on the Great Barrier Reef: a first assessment. Marine Ecology Progress Series 439: 117-126

Oppen van MJH, Bongaerts P, Underwood JN, Peplow LM, Cooper TF (2011) The role of deep reefs in shallow reef recovery: an assessment of vertical connectivity in a brooding coral from west and east Australia. MOLECULAR ECOLOGY 20: 1647-1660

Bongaerts P, Bridge TCL, Kline DI, Muir PR, Wallace CC, Beaman RJ, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2011) Mesophotic coral ecosystems on the walls of Coral Sea atolls. CORAL REEFS 30: 335-335

Bongaerts P, Riginos C, Ridgway T, Sampayo EM, Van Oppen MJH, Englebert N, Vermeulen F, Hoegh-Guldberg O  (2010) Genetic Divergence across Habitats in the Widespread Coral Seriatopora hystrix and its Associated Symbiodinium. PLoS One 5: 10871-10871

Bongaerts P, Ridgway T, Sampayo EM, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2010) Assessing the ‘deep reef refugia’ hypothesis: focus on Caribbean reefs. CORAL REEFS 29: 309-327

Frade PR, Bongaerts P, Winkelhagen AJS, Tonk L, Bak RPM (2008) In situ photobiology of corals over large depth ranges: A multivariate analysis on the roles of environment, host, and algal symbiont. LIMNOLOGY AND OCEANOGRAPHY 53: 2711-2723

Sampayo EM, Ridgway T, Bongaerts P, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2008) Bleaching susceptibility and mortality of corals are determined by fine-scale differences in symbiont type. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 105: 10444-10449

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