Thomas Wernberg

Professor, PhD W.Aust., MSc RUC

  • The University of Western Australia (M085), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile

Research interests

My research covers a broad spectrum of topics, but my primary interests lie in the ecological interactions in and around shallow sub-tidal habitats. Although my interests are broad, and the principles I study general, much of my work has focused on temperate seaweed-dominated habitats, especially kelp forests.

My research provides understanding of how coastal habitats might respond to stressors such as climate change, marine heatwaves, invasive species and eutrophication. Recently, I have also increased my focus on solutions to habitat decline through restoration and increasing our appreciation of the diversity of services our marine ecosystems provide, such as their potential role in climate mitigation. By working across sub-cellular to macro-ecological scales and connecting fields such as physiology, ecology and biogeography, my research contributes to an integrated understanding of the complex processes that drive the ecology of near-shore marine environments.

Current research themes:

  • Ecological implications of climate change and climate variability, extreme events (e.g., Marine Heatwaves);
  • Current and future patterns of global change (climate change, invasive species, eutrophication); range-shifts, tropicalisation of temperate marine ecosystems;
  • Broad-scale patterns of distribution and underlying drivers; biogeography and macro-ecology of temperate marine organisms; ecology of transition zones;
  • Interactions between seaweeds, their environment and other organisms;
  • Effect of climate and human stressors on the resilience (resistance and recovery) of communities to disturbances; thresholds in ecological function and ecosystem services;
  • Ecological costs of physiological adjustments to stress; constraints on scope for adaptation and acclimatisation; the role of genetic diversity and sub-cellular
  • The role of seaweeds and kelp forests in the global carbon cycle (blue carbon), and implications for climate mitigation strategies;
  • Kelp forest restoration, future-proofing and upscaling (e.g. Green Gravel).


Roles and responsibilities

- Chair, UWA Boating & Diving Safety Committee

- Editor-in-Chief, Aquatic Botany

- Contributing Editor, Marine Ecology Progress Series

- Associate Editor, Journal of Phycology

- Associate Editor, Marine and Freshwater Research

- Associate EditorFrontiers in Marine Science: Global Change and the Future Ocean

- Member, Scientific advisory board, Uluu

- Member, Scientific advisory board, SeaForester

- Member, Great Southern Reef Foundation, Science Committee 

Previous positions

Senior lecturer, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Western Australia, May 2015 - January 2021.

ARC Future Fellow, School of Pant Biology, The University of Western Australia, May 2011 - April 2015.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow & Assistant Professor, School of Plant Biology, UWA Oceans Institute and Australian Institute of Marine Sceince, The University of Western Australia, January 2010 – April 2012.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research, Edith Cowan University, May 2005 – December 2009.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, University of Adelaide, May 2004 – April 2005.

Research Associate, Centre for Ecosystem Management, Edith Cowan University, January – May 2004.

Research Associate, School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia, June – December 2003.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water

External positions

Principal Researcher, Institute of Marine Research

Adjunct Professor, Roskilde University

Research expertise keywords

  • Marine ecology
  • Kelp forests
  • Seaweed ecology
  • Impacts of climate change and climate variability
  • Marine range shifts
  • Marine heatwaves and extreme events
  • Marine habitats
  • Marine invasive species
  • Marine biodiversity
  • Marine biogeography and macroecology
  • Experiments
  • Blue carbon
  • Restoration
  • Green gravel


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