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UTS C3 Climate Change Cluster

Future Reefs


We study reef-forming corals, which sustain the productivity and biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems. Our goal is to understand how environmental conditions shape the form and function of the coral ‘holobiont’ (the coral and it’s associated microbial communities) and therefore how environmental stressors and climate change will impact coral reefs. We research from organism scale molecular signatures to broad scale ecological interactions and specialise in advancing technical solutions to meet our goal. The outcomes directly support model development to more accurately inform the future form and function of reef forming coral communities.


Group Leader: Associate Professor David Suggett – ARC Future Fellow

Dr Emma Camp - Research Associate

Dr Christian Evenhuis – Research Fellow

Lisa Fujise – PhD student

Stephanie Gardner – PhD student

Sam Goyen - PhD student

Trent Haydon – Honours student

David Hughes – PhD student

Dr Tim Kahlke – Research Fellow

Professor Michael Kuhl – Distinguished Research Professor

Emeritus Professor Anthony Larkum

Associate Professor Shauna Murray – ARC Future Fellow

Dr Matthew Nitschke - Visiting Scholar

Dr Mathieu Pernice – Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr Katherina Petrou – UTS School of Life Sciences

Professor Peter Ralph – Executive Director C3

Mickael Ros - PhD student

Dr Jean-Baptiste Raina – Postdoctoral Research Associate

Associate Professor Justin Seymour – ARC Future Fellow

Dr Nahshon Siboni - Research Associate

Dr Milan Szabo – Postdoctoral Research Associate

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Research Interests and Capabilities

Coral stress ecophysiology: Understanding the patterns and processes that regulate coral susceptibility to stressors, such as eutrophication, global warming and ocean acidification is a key goal for our group. We work across molecular, cellular and organismal (physiological) scales to identify the primary components that are affected by stressors but also how secondary metabolite production (e.g. reactive oxygen, volatile gases) regulates the stress response.

Coral bio-optics and photobiology: Non-destructive techniques to quickly and easily examine coral health are essential to understand the impact of stressors. We specialise in developing bio-optical (and active chlorophyll fluorescence) techniques to advance measurements and monitoring of coral productivity/health. We apply these techniques to a wide range of questions; for example how light availability shapes the biology of corals and their algal symbionts.

Microbial processes and biogeochemical cycling: Corals are profoundly influenced by the composition and function of the bacterial community that lives within and around their tissues. We examine the nature of the microbe-coral interactions, what drives them and consider the implications to long-term coral fitness. We employ a variety of molecular, microbiological and ecogenomic approaches, including metagenomics and metatranscriptomics, to examine the composition and functional capacity of the microbial assemblages associated with healthy, stressed and diseased corals. Also, development and application of sensors to examine how such interactions influence cycling of molecules (CO2, O2, Ca) and to rapidly identify particular microbes of interest (e.g. pathogens).

Symbiodinium physiology and life history: Symbiodinium sp. diversity is a key factor regulating coral fitness. We focus on understanding functional diversity amongst Symbiodinium genotypes of physiological, biochemical and molecular traits, and ultimately how this contributes to the susceptibility of host corals to stress. This focus is tied to examining the life history dynamics between in- and ex-hospite Symbiodinium populations.

Modelling coral responses to environmental change: Our various physiological observations and experiments are closely linked to parameterising and therefore developing/implementing predictive models. Activities range from organism-scale (mechanistic/physiological) to community-scale (ecological) models and numerical simulations to more broadly examine the response of coral species and communities to environmental change.  

Current Research Projects

Adaptive strategies of carbon transformation amongst coral symbionts (Symbiodinium spp.) - Mickael Ros PhD project

A novel microbial-algal calcification process driven by coral symbiotic algae: Structure, function, ecological role and evolutionary significance” [collaboration with University of Aveiro]

Photosynthetic traits as "key performance indicators" of coral health (DP160100271)

How have corals pushed their limits to thrive in Sydney's backyard? - Sam Goyen PhD project

Australian coastal health watch: Improved marine primary productivity estimates using advanced Fast Repetition Rate fluorometry

Coral reefs and climate change in the Seychelles [collaboration with University of Essex]

Life history dynamics of Symbiodinium population in coral reefs [Lisa Fujise PhD project; collaboration with University of Aveiro]

Hot-spots of coral resilience within the Great Barrier Reef unlock secrets to future reef security [National Geographic Explorer]

Identifying the value of New Caledonia’s “extreme” corals to manage reefs under climate change [Fonds Pacifique]

Research Opportunities

All enquiries, including Honours projects to David.Suggett@uts.edu.au

Partners and Collaborators

Dr Mark Baird, CSIRO, Hobart, Australia

Professor Doug Campbell, Mount Allison University, Canada

Associate Professor Peta Clode, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

Dr Simon Dunn, A/Prof. Sophie Dove, Prof. Ove-Hoegh Guldberg, University of Queensland, Australia

Dr Oren Levy, Bar Ilan University, Israel

Dr Ross Hill, Macquarie University, Australia

Associate Professor Ruy Kikuchi, Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA), Brazil

Professor David Kramer, Michigan State University, USA

Associate Professor Todd LaJeunesse, The Pennsylvania State University, USA

Associate Professor Bill Leggat, James Cook University, Australia

Associate Professor João Serôdio, Dr Jörg Frommlet, University of Aveiro, Portugal

Professor David Smith, University of Essex, UK

Dr Madeleine Van Oppen, University of Melbourne and AIMS

Dr Imre Vass, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary

Professor Mark Warner, University of Delaware, USA

Professor Wah Soon Chow, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia


Selected Recent Publications

Camp EF, Nitschke MR, Rodolfo-Metalpa R, Houlbreque F, Gardner S, Smith DJ, Zampighi M, Suggett DJ. 2017. Reef-building corals thrive within hot-acidified and deoxygenated waters. Scientific Reports (in press).

Klein SG, Pitt KA, Nitschke MR, Goyen S, Welsch DT, Suggett DJ, Carroll A. 2017. Symbiodinium mitigate the combined effects of hypoxia and acidification on a non-calcifying cnidarian. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13718.

Wangpraseurt D, Holm J, Larkum AWD, Pernice M, Ralph PJ, Suggett DJ, Kühl M. 2017. In vivo microscale measurements of light and photosynthesis during coral bleaching: evidence for the optical feedback loop? Frontiers in Microbiology 8:59.

Camp EF, Smith DJ, Evenhuis C, Enochs I, Manzello D, Woodcock S, Suggett DJ. 2016. Acclimatisation to high variance habitats does not enhance physiological tolerance of two key Caribbean corals to future temperature and pH. Royal Society of London Proceedings B DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0442.

Camp EF, Suggett DJ, Gendron G, Jompa J, Manfrino C, Smith DJ. 2016. Mangrove and seagrass beds provide different biogeochemical services for corals threatened by climate change. Frontiers in Marine Science 3:52. DOI 10.3389/fmars.2016.00052.

Gardner SG, Nielsen DA, Laczka O, Shimmon R, Beltran VH, Ralph PJ, Petrou K. 2016. Dimethylsulfoniopropionate, superoxide dismutase and glutathione as stress response indicators in three corals under short-term hyposalinity stress. Proceedings of the Royal Society B DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2418.

Jin YK, Lundgren,P, Lutz A, Raina JB, Howell EJ, Paley AS, Willis BL, van Oppen MJH. 2016. Genetic markers for antioxidant capacity in a reef-building coral. Science Advances 2(5): e1500842.

Raina J, Tapiolas D, Motti CA, Foret S, Seemann T, Tebben J, Willis BL, Bourne DG. 2016. Isolation of an antimicrobial compound produced by bacteria associated with reef-building corals. PeerJ 4:e2275.

Slavov C, Schrameyer V, Reus M, Ralph PJ, Hill R, Büchel C, Larkum AWD, Holzwarth AR. 2016. '"Super-quenching" state protects Symbiodinium from thermal stress - Implications for coral bleaching. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1857: 840-847.

Schrameyer V, Krämer W, Hill R, Jeans J, Larkum AWD, Bischof K, Campbell DA, Ralph PJ. 2016. Under high light stress two Indo-Pacific coral species display differential photodamage and photo repair dynamics. Marine Biology 163: 168.

Wangpraseurt, Pernice, M, Guagliardo, P, Kilburn MR, Clode PL, Polerecky L, Kühl M. 2015. Light microenvironment and single-cell gradients of carbon fixation in tissues of symbiont-bearing corals. The ISME Journal. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.133

Frommlet, J.C., Sousa, M.L., Alves, A., Vieira, S.I., Suggett, D.J., Serôdio, J. 2015, 'Coral symbiotic algae calcify ex hospite in partnership with bacteria', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 112, no. 19, pp. 6158-6163.

Suggett DJ, Goyen G, Evenhuis C, Szabó M, Pettay DT, Warner ME, Ralph PJ. 2015. Functional diversity of photobiological traits within the genus Symbiodinium appears largely governed by the interaction of cell size with cladal designation. New Phytologist 208(2):370-81

Ainsworth TD, Krause L, Bridge T, Torda G, Raina JB, Zakrzewski M, Gates R, Padilla-Gamino J, Spalding HL, Smith C, Woosley E, Krause L, Bourne D, Bongaerts P, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Leggat W. 2015. The coral core microbiome identifies rare bacterial taxa as ubiquitous endosymbionts. The ISME Journal. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.39

In The News

Coral Compounds (Feb 2017)
Sydney Harbour reefs showing signs of recovery (August 2016)
Sydney's corals now bleaching (April 2016)
Coral bleaching found in Sydney Harbour (April 2016)
Great Barrier Reef bleaching event: what happens next? (March 2016)
"Extreme" corals could hold key to species survival (Feb 2016)
ARC grant successes support discovery in law, science and technology (Nov 2015)
Corals on the Edge (August 2015)
What lies beneath (June 2015)
"Safe house" discovery a new insight on reef ecology (May 2015)
Uncovering the climate gases that control our coral coasts (Nov 2014)


Associate Professor David Suggett PhD (ARC Future Fellow)
Climate Change Cluster (C3)
Faculty of Science
University of Technology Sydney

15 Broadway, Ultimo NSW 2007

Phone: +61 02 9514 1900
Email: David.Suggett@uts.edu.au