Project Title: The Application of sxtA-based and Species-specific qPCR Assays for the Early Detection of Toxic Alexandrium Species in Eastern Australian Waters
Supervisors: A/Prof Shauna Murray, Dr Gurjeet Kohli, Dr Henna Savela
Marine dinoflagellate (microalgal) species producing a class of potent neurotoxins called Paralytic Shellfish Toxins or saxitoxins occur in coastal regions worldwide, including Australia. The recent dinoflagellate blooms of species of Alexandrium species on the east-coast of Australia have resulted in significant financial loss to the shellfish industry and public health threats. The requirement for an early detection system to mitigate the impact of this increasingly unpredictable and severe threat is evident. Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (QPCR) assays based on the toxin gene, sxtA, and ribosomal large subunit have enabled the detection and characterisation of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning–associated species from the water column in low concentrations.
In this project, we aim to test the specificity and sensitivity of these assays, develop and validate a low-cost sample processing pipeline that the shellfish farmers can use in the field, and validate the use of the toxin gene-based assay as an early-warning and bloom characterisation tool. We also attempt to identify the inter-species and inter-strain variations of gene copy numbers in ribosomal and sxtA genes of STX-producing marine phytoplankton, which may reveal the link between gene copy number variation and toxin production.
Peer Review Publications:
Hallegraeff, G and Bolch, C and Condie, S and Dorantes Aranda, JJ and Murray, S and Quinlan, R and Ruvindy, R and Turnbull, A and Ugalde, S and Wilson, K. (2018) Unprecedented Alexandrium blooms in a previously low biotoxin risk area of Tasmania, Australia. Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Harmful Algae 2016. 09-14 October 2016, Florianopolis, Brazil, pp. 38-41.
Ruvindy, R., White, R.A, Neilan, B.A., Burns, B.P. (2016). Unravelling the metabolic and taxonomic complexity of marine stromatolites using high-throughput metagenomic sequencing. ISME J. 10: 183-196.
Ruvindy, R., Ajani, P., Murray, S. 2016, Microalgal Community Composition Assessment in Warringah Lagoons 2015-2016.
Ruvindy, R., Ajani, P., Murray, S. 2015, Microalgal Community Composition Assessment in Warringah Lagoons 2014-2015.
Scholarships and Awards:
Student Bursary, The British Phycological Society (BPS)
Student Travel Award, International Society for the Study of Harmful Algae (ISSHA).
Student Travel Award, Australasian Society for Phycology and Aquatic Botany (ASPAB).
Science Faculty Higher Degree Research Student Conference Travel Fund Award, University of Technology Sydney (UTS).
Faculty of Science Scholarship