Current Research Projects

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Microbial metabolic networks: the hidden key to resilience of coral algal endosymbionts

Employing state of the art molecular, imaging and microbiological techniques to identify the key metabolic networks between Symbiodiniaceae-bacterial associations that drive Symbiodiniaceae ecological success.

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Sydney Harbour corals

 Temperate reefs are considered as potential refuges for tropical reef species from climate change. Despite the ecological importance of temperate reefs, little is known about the physiological and behavioural adaptations that allow (sub)tropical corals to thrive in these habitats, and the impact of the colonisation upon the native coral community. Survival of corals in sub-optimal environments usually involves shifts in metabolic balance to enhance stress tolerance; we aim to answer this question by characterising physiological (including metabolic profiling) and behavioural traits that contribute to the competitive fitness of the potentially-invasive Pocillopora aliciae and native Plesiastra versipora in Sydney Harbour.

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Larval endosymbiosis

Working with researchers from Hawaii, Oregon, Southern California and AIMS to investigate the evolution of endosymbiosis and harnessing the potential for coral adaptation through larval manipulation.

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Marine Microplastics

Microplastic pollution spans the world’s ocean and is one of the biggest environmental issues of our time. These tiny pieces of human society carry toxic chemicals and microbial pathogens, contaminating drinking water, killing marine life and entering our food chain. Removing marine microplastics is a global challenge, and an especially difficult one given the size (< 5 mm) and variety of shapes of microplastics. Improving our understanding of the diversity and versatilities of marine microplastics is essential for developing novel technologies to remove them; sampling microplastics in beach sand is a perfect way to gather this vital information. In collaboration with Dr Rakesh Joshi, a plastic polymer expert at the University of New South Wales, we are exploring the potential of leveraging off chemical and physical properties of microplastics to develop a mechanistic approach to aggerating microplastics in our oceans. 

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Coral larvae Reseeding on the GBR

This project is led by Southern Cross University’s (SCU) Professor Peter Harrison, with A/Prof Dave Suggett (UTS) and Katie Chartrand (JCU). The Larval Restoration Project aims to repair the reproductive life cycles of corals and to re-establish breeding populations on damaged reefs in the Great Barrier Reef. Bringing together some of the world’s leading coral scientists, tourism and other key industry partners, our team will harvest millions of coral eggs and sperm during the upcoming spawning event to grow new coral larvae, which will be released back onto heavily degraded parts of the northern Great Barrier Reef.