Microscale coral photobiology research has macro scale implications
Not many people would think you could combine optics and coral research together, but for recent UTS PhD graduate Daniel Wangprasuert that’s exactly what he did.
His thesis ‘Microscale Optics and Coral Photobiology’ was included on the Chancellors List 2015; and Dr Wangprasuert also received the prestigious Carlsberg Foundation Fellowship, which has taken him to Denmark.
Dr Wangprasuert’s PhD undertaken in the UTS:Climate Change Cluster (C3) focused on the interaction of light with corals on a small scale within a tissue and how light-matter interaction regulates photosynthesis in terms of energy efficiency of the coral and the wider coral reef.
He is now using high-end technology to further his research and understanding through microsensors, which are able to measure light, temperature and oxygen on a very small scale.
“[The Calsberg Fellowship] allows me to continue my work on coral optics using some more advanced tools from the biomedical optics sector, specifically optical coherence tomography, which was originally developed for the early detection of skin cancer.
“We fused research from biomedical optics with marine biology and there is a great persity of techniques and theoretical concepts from different scientific principles that have merged in my project.”
Dr Wangprasuert started his undergraduate in Hamburg, Germany but then went to James Cook University in northern Queensland to complete his Bachelor of Marine Biology. He continued his further studies completing his Masters at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology and the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology, both in Bremen, Germany. He focused on corals and has conducted multiple studies and research into the area throughout his tertiary education.
He chose to complete his PhD at UTS because of the interdisciplinary aspects and the opportunity to work with his supervisor, C3 Distinguished Professor, Michael Kuhl.
“UTS had an excellent research environment and it was really young and perse,” he said. “I was looking specifically at my lab and the people I would be working with and the Climate Change Cluster has some very good researchers internationally.
“I really acknowledge the support and the guidance from my supervisors and the project was so efficient because I had such a great research environment.”
Dr Wangprasuert’s current research in Denmark is taking his PhD work a step further by looking at the ‘nitty gritty’ details of light regulation in corals and other marine organisms.
“Our fundamental research has a lot of implications with regards to coral bleaching and the processes involved in that, which is still a very real problem for coral reefs, especially in Australia.”
Dr Wangpraseurt doesn’t just want to stop at Denmark and has already planned his next endeavour being awarded the Global Marie Curie Fellowship, a prestigious European fellowship. He plans on continuing his work next year at the University of Cambridge and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
“The two labs focus on bio-inspired photonics, which involves understanding light-matter interaction in nature and then developing smart materials that can for instance benefit the renewable energy sector,” he said.
“I am hoping to understand how certain mechanisms of light regulation work in a marine organism and then develop the means for renewable energy sources.
“Understanding the interaction of light with photosynthetic organisms will have implications for developing solar cells, biofuels and other aspects of renewable energy.
“I would love to do something which would positively impact the way we are using renewable energy so I will focus a lot of my research efforts into that.”