Title: The role of microbial behaviour in structuring coral-microbe interactions
Supervisors: Professor Peter Ralph, Dr Justin Seymour
PhD conferred: 2016
Recent studies have revealed the presence of a dynamic microbial biota living on the surface and in the tissue of many coral species. Yet the specific role which bacteria partake in coral health and the overall reef ecosystem remains uncertain. What is clear from previous research is that bacteria play a fundamental role within reef ecosystems through:
- Driving nutrient cycling process that support the productivity of the reef ecosystem,
- Providing a food resource for corals,
- Representing either symbiotic or pathogenic partners to a coral.
However, little is known about the dynamics involved in establishing coral-bacteria spatial associations within the environment. It has been proposed that chemotaxis is one potential mechanism that enables bacteria to establish associations with coral. Bacteria move towards favourable conditions and away from hostile surroundings through sensing of chemical gradients. Using chemotaxis bacteria may establish and maintain symbiotic relationships, colonise surfaces such as the mucosal layer of corals as well as gain access to nutrient patches throughout the water column.
- To explore the role of chemotaxis and quorum sensing in coral- bacterial associations.
- To address how these bacterial behaviours change under altered environmental conditions.
- To determine how this behavior influences chemical processes within the coral holobiont, and the overall health of the holobiont.