Member Profile

Lilian Denisse Fierro Arcos

PhD student

The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS)
University of Tasmania


Denisse is an Ecuadorian-Australian marine biologist who has worked in a variety of coastal systems in South America and Australia. She completed a Bachelor of Science (Marine Science and Zoology) in 2016 and a Master of Studies (Marine Biology and GIS) in 2018 at The University of Western Australia. Denisse is passionate about the conservation of the marine environment and how changes to the environment are impacting ocean ecosystems, which led her to become involved in outreach campaigns directed at both adults and children to promote the importance of the ocean and its protection. Denisse is also an avid programmer and through her involvement with R-Ladies (international organisation promoting gender diversity in the R community) and the Ecuadorian Society for Statistics (organisation that promotes the study and application of statistics nationwide), she has organised and/or delivered a number of free workshops aimed at making programming and statistics more accessible to the general public. Denisse is currently completing a PhD at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies through which she aims to understand how changes in sea ice and ocean dynamics at a fine-scale likely impact marine ecosystems and key species (e.g., krill, penguins, seals, whales) in the Southern Ocean.

THESIS: Understanding the Impacts of fine-scale Sea ice and Ocean Dynamics on Southern Ocean ecosystem

The Southern Ocean is an environment of physical extremes, from seasonal cycles of food availability and sea ice extent, to high interannual variability. This creates a range of internal variability that has remained stable over the past ~20 million years, supporting a complex ecosystem, rich biodiversity and making the Southern Ocean key for natural and economic resources. However this environment is now quickly changing under the pressure of both climate change and the very large internal variability. his PhD project uses the state of the art ACCESS-OM2 ocean-sea ice coupled model to look at changes in sea ice, biogeochemistry and ocean dynamics in the Southern Ocean, and their impact on key Southern Ocean ecosystems. The project aims to understand how changes in fine-scale sea ice and ocean dynamics (the physics) around Antarctica will likely impact Southern Ocean ecosystems and key species (for example, krill, penguins, seals and whales). To achieve this I will use ACCESS-OM2 outputs, both the 0.25o and 0.1o resolutions, to correlate environmental trends in sea ice and ocean dynamics with biogeochemistry and known biological hotspots. There are planned analyses around trends and future impacts if the data is available by the end of the project. By investigating Southern Ocean changes in sea ice and ocean dynamics and polar climate sensitivity, this project aligns with the Climate Variability and Teleconnections Research Program. More specifically, this PhD project is a direct contribution to RP 4.4 ‘Southern Ocean circulation and biogeochemistry’. The supervisory team is half CLEX researchers, including: Amelie Meyer with expertise on ocean and sea ice dynamics, Hakase Hayashida with expertise on sea ice and ocean biogeochemistry, Andrew Kiss with expertise on sea ice and the ACCESS-OM2 model. There is also the primary supervisor Stuart Corney, an IMAS researcher working on ocean and ecosystem modelling, Southern Ocean, mesopelagics and krill; as well as Petra Heil from the Australian Antarctic Division who is a sea ice and ecosystem expert and officially an advisor for the project. This collaborative and interdisciplinary PhD project aligns strongly with the overall CLEX strategy of outstanding science to transform our understanding of climate variability and sensitivity, and capability to predict its impact into the future.