Thomas Wernberg

Professor, PhD W.Aust.

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

    6009 Perth


  • Source: Scopus
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Personal profile


I am an ARC Future Fellow at the School of Plant Biology, based within the UWA’s Oceans Institute and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. I received my Masters in Environmental Biology & Geography from Roskilde University in Denmark in 1998, and my PhD in Marine Botany from UWA in 2003. My research covers a broad spectrum of topics, but my primary interests lie in the ecological interactions in and around shallow sub-tidal habitats. My research provides predictions on how coastal habitats will respond to stressors like climate change, invasive species and eutrophication. By highlighting the links between fields such as physiology, ecology and biogeography, my research has contributed to an integrated understanding of the complex processes that occur in near-shore marine environments. I have supervised five postgraduate students, published >80 publication, and received >$2.8M in funding.

Roles and responsibilities

- Editorial advisory board, Aquatic Botany

- UWA Boating & Diving Safety Committee

-School of Plant Biology Health & Safety Commitee

- Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre, External Spaces Committee

Funding overview


NATIONALLY COMPETITIVE GRANTS (Australia & Denmark): $1,506K




- Wernberg & Bennett “Range contraction of kelp forests and tropicalisation of Australia's temperate marine environments” Hermon Slade Foundation, 2013-2015, $84,000

- Wernberg “Climatic forcing of ecological function in temperate marine habitats: bridging the gaps” Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, 2011-2015, $697,578

- Wernberg & Gurgel “Long-term changes in the phenology of Australia's temperate marine macroalgae: has climate change impacted the world's most diverse algal flora?” Australian Research Council Linkage grant & partner contributions, 2012-2014, $315,000

- Smale, Wernberg, Hawkins & Cook “Does warming facilitate invasive species in marine habitats?” UWA Research Collaboration Grant (UK), 2011, $19,000

- Frusher, Pecl, Wernberg, Smale, Tobin “Understanding the global impacts and implications of range-shifting species in marine systems” Australian National Network in Marine Science, Issues in Marine Science program, 2011-2012, $300,000

- Wernberg, Kendrick, Bolton, Anderson, Sjotun: “Global patterns of climate adaptation in kelps” Worldwide Universities Network Research Development Fund, 2011, (£15,000) $24,000

- Wernberg, Kendrick, Johnson, Wright: “Reproduction and ecophysiology of Ecklonia radiata at the margins of its Australian distribution” Australian National Network in Marine Science Springboard program, 2011, $28,000

- Wernberg, Kendrick, Bolton, Anderson: “SHARC – Southern Hemisphere Algal Research Coalition” UWA Research Collaboration Award (South Africa), 2011, $17,000

- Wernberg: “Adaptation and reproductive ecology of a marine foundation species facing global warming and reduced water quality” UWA Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, 2010, $74,018.

- Wernberg et al.: “Marine Flora Climate Impacts”, ARC-NZ Vegetation Function Network, working group 58, 2009, $25,000 (estimated value)

- Wernberg, Thomsen: “Synergistic impacts of drift algae, invasive species and environmental stressors on seagrass health and ecological interactions”, ECU Industry Linkage Grant and The Swan River Trust, 2008-2009, $46,340

- Wernberg, Kendrick, Babcock: “Effects of physical disturbance on kelp-dominated reef communities across a broad temperate-tropical transition zone”, Australian Research Council Discovery grant, 2005-07, $210,000

- Wernberg: “Vegetative re-generation as a mechanism for canopy recovery of fucoid algae”, Danish Natural Science Research Council, (2007-08) (210,000 DKR), $46,000

- Wernberg: “Influence of Ecklonia radiata on associated macroalgae in southwestern Australia”, Danish Natural Science Research Council (1999-2002) (965,979 DKR), $228,300

Previous positions

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.

Teaching overview


Aquatic Botany (PLNT2203)

Marine Science (SCIE2204)


Bijo Joy Arackal (PhD, IPRS scholar): Ecophysiology and sub-cellular indicators of thermal adaptation in seaweeds. Co-supervised by Assoc Prof Finnegan, The University of Western Australia, on-going.

Stefan Andrews (BSc Hons): Effects of temperature on fucoid reproduction and early performance. Co-supervised by Bennett, The University of Western Australia, on-going.

Scott Bennett (PhD, APA scholar): Functional ecology of Sargassum canopies at different latitudes. Co-supervised by Prof Kendrick, The University of Western Australia, on-going.

Margaret Mohring (PhD, APA scholar): Effects of climate on the reproduction of kelp (Ecklonia radiata). Co-supervised by Prof Kendrick, The University of Western Australia, on-going.

Thibaut de Bettignies (PhD): Sources and supply of wrack: quantifying vectors of habitat connectivity. Co-supervised by Prof Lavery (ECU) and Dr Mat Vanderklift (CSIRO), Edith Cowan University, on-going.


Jakob Thyrring: Community wide facilitation by an invasive ecosystem engineer (Batillaria australis). Co-supervisor with Dr Mads Thomsen, and Dr Kurt Thomas (AaU), visiting student, Aarhus University (Denmark), 2011.

Hong Nam Lo: Seasonal and spatial variation in abundance and species richness of seaweed associated mobile epifauna in Ningaloo, Western Australia. Co-supervised by Dr Rule (DEC), MSc, 2011.

Jose Escano Placido Roepstorff: Ecology of Caulerpa spp. in Western Australia – understanding traits and impacts of super-invaders. Co-supervised by Prof Holmer (USD) and Dr Thomsen (NERI), MSc, The University of Southern Denmark, 2010.

Hannes Höffle: Impacts of invasive species on seagrass health under present and future temperature regimes – a case study from two climate zones. Co-supervisor with Prof Holmer (USD) and Dr Thomsen (NERI). MSc, The University of Southern Denmark, 2008.

Melissa White: Grazing pressure by herbivorous gastropods on macroalgae in southwestern Australian kelp forests. Co-supervised by Prof Kendrick and Dr Vanderklift (CSIRO), BSc(Hons), The University of Western Australia, 2006.


I have a particular interest in ecological interactions in and around shallow subtidal habitats. My research has a strong quantitative and empirical focus, relying on field and laboratory observations and experiments to tease apart the often complex interactions that cause patterns of species distributions in nature.
My interests and experiences are broad and not confined to particular taxa or processes other than perhaps a predilection for perturbation ecology and broad-scale comparisons; much of my work has centred on macroalgae (because they are dominant habitat formers in temperate areas), but the focus has often been on how these interact with fish and invertebrates; my research covers a broad spectrum of topics and taxa, including invasive species, structure and biogeography of marine assemblages, patterns and causes of morphological variation in habitat formers, ecosystem engineering effects of canopy species, biomechanical properties of macroalgae, herbivory and population structure of herbivores, trophic links between reefs and adjacent habitats, ecophysiology of marine plants and recovery of reef communities from physical disturbances. By high-lighting links between these topics, my research has contributed to an integrated understanding of ecological processes in near-shore marine habitats. Specific topics covered include:

1) Effect of climate and human stressors on the resilience of communities to disturbances;
2) Ecological effects of physiological adaptation to stress;
3) The ecology of invasive species and their impacts on native communities;
4) Trophic linkages between habitats from export and consumption of detached reef algae;
5) Biomechanics of canopy formers and the prediction of physical disturbances;
6) Morphological variation of canopy- algae, and effects on the ecology of the understorey;
7) Biogeography and macro-ecology of temperate marine plants;

I am active within all of these topics but, increasingly, my research focuses on the nexus between physiology, ecology and biogeography, and the need to understand current and future patterns of global change (climate change, invasive species, eutrophication). This research provides predictions on how coastal habitats will respond to anthropogenic stressors now and in the future, and recommendations for conservation strategies needed to ameliorate their impacts.


Research expertise keywords

  • Marine ecology
  • Kelp forests
  • Seaweed ecology
  • Impacts of climate change and climate variability
  • Marine range shifts
  • Marine heat waves and extreme events
  • Marine habitats
  • Marine invasive species
  • Marine biodiversity
  • Marine biogeography and macroecology
  • Experiments


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