Systems biology approach rewards seagrass researcher
Seagrass specialist Manoj Kumar has double reason to smile in 2018. Coinciding with the publication of a book he co-edited on marine ecosystems the ARC DECRA Fellow was awarded The Thomas Davies Research Grant for Marine, Soil and Plant Biology in late 2017
Dr Kumar’s work focuses on understanding seagrass responses to environmental change using functional genomics. His Thomas Davies Research Grant research proposal aims to link synergistic stressors, such as heavy metal pollution and ocean acidification (OA), as well as identify biomarkers that can detect early stress responses in seagrass.
Dr Kumar says that studying seagrass resilience to synergistic stresses under the scenario of global climate change and human impact has broad significance for marine ecosystems.
“Seagrass meadows are enormously important both ecologically and economically but they are being destroyed at an alarming rate,’ he says.
“In marine coastal areas, neither OA nor heavy mental pollution occurs in isolation, they occur simultaneously. Therefore, understanding the interactive effects of metal pollution and OA under environmentally realistic scenarios is essential for ecotoxicology and environmental risk assessment of seagrass ecosystems,” Dr Kumar says.
The project approach to integrate physiology and omics (proteomics and metabolomics) will lead to the development of conservation management and restoration protocols and policy, the UTS Climate Change Cluster (C3) researcher says.
It’s an approach very much at the heart of the new book “Systems Biology of Marine Ecosystems” he has co-edited with C3 Director, Professor Peter Ralph.
The book describes the latest advances in systems biology for seaweed, seagrasses, microalgae and corals. By integrating data from different disciplines - including physiology, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics – into numerical models, systems biology simulates the physiology of the whole organism.
Systems biology is an equally important approach for understanding how diverse marine ecosystems are likely to respond to environmental stress
“Systems biology has been used extensively to study terrestrial ecosystems in the context of understanding how plants will respond and adapt to climate change. Peter and I believe systems biology is an equally important approach for understanding how diverse marine ecosystems are likely to respond to environmental stress,” Kumar says.
The authors expect the book to be of value not only to the research community but also to marine engineers and managers responsible for conserving the world’s valuable marine resources.