Project title: Roles of Metabolite Transformations in Providing Corals with Enhanced Stress Tolerance
Supervisors: Assoc. Prof. David Suggett and Prof. Justin Seymour
The global decline of coral reefs worldwide has brought forward concerns over whether corals possess the ability to persist into the future. Recent predictions suggest that coral reefs will be reduced to only 10% of current levels within 30 years, due to increased anthropogenic pressures such as climate change. Tropical coral reefs are of particular concern, due to their high social, ecological and economic value. In vitro experiments have thus far identified stress tolerant species, however, the physiological mechanisms and ecological interactions, that drive coral resilience are largely unknown. Corals that thrive in extreme environments are thought to possess specific traits that enhance their ability to survive.
This research will reveal the novel metabolites that promote stress resistance and identify the role for coral-associated microbial communities in the synthesis and degradation of these metabolites within extreme environments. Using novel metabolomics and metagenomics methods, along with physiological measurements, I will characterise the production of secondary metabolites and microbial interactions/functions within the coral holobiont. In addition, I will perform in situ measurements to assess stress responses and physiological change.
The outcomes of this project will uncover the, as yet undefined, physiological traits and microbial interactions of corals within extreme habitats and subsequently identify coral species for future restoration projects.