UTS has maintained a very progressive approach to learning and research. I feel I am in a world...
Supervisors: Associate Professor David Suggett and Professor Peter Ralph
Research project title How have corals pushed their limits to thrive in Sydney’s backyard?
Describe your research project Surprisingly, Sydney Harbour is home to several species of reef building, scleractinian corals. Sydney Harbour is considered an extreme environment for these corals, due to its high latitude, low light and nutrient rich waters and extreme (lower) temperatures. Extreme environments, such as Sydney Harbour, may become the ‘norm’ for reefs in the future as worldwide, coral reefs are at risk from pollution, ocean acidification and global warming. Have the Sydney corals evolved specific physiology to thrive in cooler waters, and how adaptive are they in the face of climate change? Answering these unknowns will enable us to better understand coral form and function as well as the importance of Sydney Harbour as a possible ‘coral refuge’ given the potential for more northerly coral populations to migrate as waters warm.
What is the aim of your project? The overall goal of this project is to understand the nature and extent with which reef building scleractinian corals are able to thrive at their southerly limits within Sydney Harbour. This involves quantifying the diversity and abundance of corals in Sydney and how this is potentially moderated by local scale gradients in environmental condition (e.g. temperature, light and pH).
Why did you choose to pursue a research degree as opposed to going into the work force? Why this area of research? Completing undergraduate studies and an Honours year at UTS really showed me how much I enjoy research so I decided a PhD would be a great option. I returned to university for Honours following a few years in the workforce wanting a different type of challenge. Research is so inspiring and essential and I wanted to further experience this aspect of science. I wanted to continue in research to learn more about the oceans and in particular coral reefs. They are highly fragile ecosystems at the front-line of climate change and there is still so much we don't understand about them. They provide so many ecosystem services, including food and income support for millions of people, however are at risk from rapidly accelerating local (eutrophication, pollution) and global (warmer and more acidic waters) threats.
What is your daily activity? The first year of my PhD has been really hands on with extensive field work (including a trip to Heron Island) collecting samples and data as well as setting up and running long-term stress experiments at Manly Sealife Sanctuary. I have also been in the lab processing samples and developing molecular techniques.
What attracted you to research at UTS Science? UTS attracted me for undergraduate studies due to the emphasis on hands on, practical experience and learning where I was able to go into the field, get experience on state of the art equipment and was given the opportunity to go on exchange as part of a double degree. Through Honours and now a PhD, UTS has maintained a very progressive approach to learning and research where I feel I am in a world-class, productive and dynamic environment in which to contribute to the field.
What is your future? At this stage I am considering all areas including a future in research, industry, policy etc. The main thing for me is working within the big picture and making sure my work feeds into marine conservation and management strategies. I am passionate about climate change and the future of coral reefs and other marine systems both from an ecological and human aspect also, so any work in that field is important to me.