C3 researcher wins million-dollar international grant
Your phenotype – that is, everything that makes you "you" - can be identified by such characteristics as your height, skin colour, and the shape of your nose.
Each organism has a number of unique identifiable traits – even algae, which will be the focus of a new project involving Professor Martina Doblin from the UTS Climate Change Cluster.
Professor Doblin’s project ‘Defining the evolvable phenotype landscape for marine phytoplankton,’ has recently been awarded $1,000,000 in funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
"We want to measure phytoplankton traits in a large number of environments to help us understand which traits are clustered, and what trait combinations are available to each genotype when the environment changes" Professor Doblin explained.
This research is important because some traits represent the functional roles of phytoplankton and these yield essential ecosystem services for humans.
The project will be completed over two years with Dr Naomi Levine from the University of Southern California and Dr Sinead Collins from Edinburgh University.
In addition, Professor Doblin has appointed Phoebe Argyle as a postdoctoral research fellow for the project, who has just completed her PhD and will move to Sydney from New Zealand.
Currently, Professor Doblin is at the very beginning of her project, with the three principal investigators set to meet shortly for a kick-off meeting in Boston, USA.
Meanwhile, at UTS, Professor Doblin’s team is in the process of acquiring the phytoplankton isolates to be characterised, ready for Phoebe to start work in the lab mid-September 2018.
Professor Doblin, leader of the Productive Coasts research program within C3, is motivated by a goal to understand how changes in the global ocean will affect Australia’s food security, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem health.
For the last five years she has been researching the impact of warming on Australia’s ocean microbes, which provide early indicators of change in ocean ecosystems as they respond rapidly to changes in their environment.
"Their short generation times also make them amenable to conducting laboratory experiments, where we can measure the outcome of long-term processes," Professor Doblin said.
"I am trying to uncover how the ecosystem services provided by phytoplankton will change over space and time."
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation was established by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife Betty in 2000 with a goal to tackle large, important issues at a scale where it can achieve significant and enduring impacts.
The main areas of interest are environmental conservation, scientific research, higher education and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Professor Doblin is excited about the support of the Foundation.
"This grant accelerates our investigations in a way that allows three international research groups to work together and harnesses all of the intellectual know-how to deliver a more impactful contribution to science," she said.
Professor Doblin also recognises the crucial role UTS and C3 played in her achievement.
The support of UTS and the C3 has been essential for me to be in a position where I’m a recognised expert in this area of science and can attract this support from an international foundation
"The facilities we have, including those we have attracted from the Australian Research Council, have been critical in developing some of the techniques we will utilise in this research."
Professor Doblin said UTS will soon have world-leading facilities to rapidly characterise phytoplankton phenotypes, and her team is contributing to the design and development of this research infrastructure.
If her life wasn’t busy enough, Professor Doblin has also been involved in National Science Week events since 2009, with her team’s research currently being featured at the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) as part of the Container exhibit.
Professor Doblin is inviting all science minds to see her in action at the ANMM on Sunday 19 August, where, together with her collaborators, she’ll help launch UTS' marmic.me website as part of a citizen science project 'Increasing participation in ocean science through data visualisation.'
This will be followed by a panel discussion called Science Nation where Professor Doblin will be putting her comedic skills to the test, promising to tell jokes.
You can register for both events: