Project Title: Assessing the risk of ciguatera fish poisoning at Heron Island Reef and Orpheus Island, Great Barrier Reef.
Supervisors: Dr. Shauna Murray (UTS in Australia) and Dr. Kirsty Smith (Cawthron Institute in New Zealand).
I am currently a PhD researcher within the Climate Change Cluster (C3) at UTS in Sydney. I have a Bachelor Honours Degree in Environmental Chemistry from University of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil and a Master Degree from Technische Universität Hamburg (TUHH) in Germany. I also started a MBA in Entrepreneurship in Green Technologies at the same university in Germany. I have worked alongside industry, educational and public institutions in Brazil and Europe.
Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) is caused by toxins generated by dinoflagellates of the genus Gambierdiscus. CFP is a foodborne illness that occurs worldwide, mainly in tropical regions and is the most common case of seafood-toxin poisoning around the globe.
Since 1965, Australia has experienced large outbreaks of CFP, with two human deaths and from periods between 1965 and 2010, more than 1400 reported cases were reported. Climate Change effects may impact and increase chances of CFP.
In order to understand ciguatera disease, it is important to consider how the genus Gambierdiscus is distributed in the surrounding ecosystem, and to understand the process of toxin production and accumulation throughout the food web.
The overarching aim of my project is to determine Gambierdiscus species identity, toxicology and distribution in a sub-tropical area of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), in order to advance our knowledge of the causes of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) in Australia and help to fill it up the knowledge gap existent in the field.
To do this, I am comparing multiple spatial sampling approaches to determine which one provides the most accurate and representative assessment of species abundance. I am developing new molecular genetic methods for identifying and quantifying Gambierdiscus species and assess their use in the field. I design sampling methods and collect field samples in order to determine the impact of seasonality on the abundance and distribution of species of toxic Gambierdiscus.
Due to the impacts of climate change, CFP is increasing in frequency in the Pacific and in other regions. Therefore, it is crucial to understand Gambierdiscus species diversity, distribution, toxicology and genetics, in order to monitor and predict outbreaks of CFP and avoid contamination, as well as, estimate economic losses accurately. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), is an endemic location for cases of CFP. However, we still face a knowledge gap in this area and only a few studies have been conducted there to date, what justifies the significance of my project.