We study reef-forming corals, which sustain the productivity and biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems. Our goal is to understand how environmental conditions shape the form and function of the coral ‘holobiont’ (the coral and it’s associated microbial communities) and therefore how environmental stressors and climate change will impact coral reefs. We research from organism scale molecular signatures to broad scale ecological interactions and specialise in advancing technical solutions to meet our goal. The outcomes directly support model development to more accurately inform the future form and function of reef forming coral communities.
Group Leader: Associate Professor David Suggett
Dr Emma Camp - Research Associate
Chris Cooney - Honours Student
Annabelle Doheny - Honours Student
Sam Goyen - PhD student
Trent Haydon – PhD student
David Hughes – PhD student
Dr Tim Kahlke – Research Fellow
Professor Michael Kuhl – Distinguished Research Professor
Emeritus Professor Anthony Larkum
Caitlin Lawson - PhD candidate
Associate Professor Shauna Murray – ARC Future Fellow
Dr Matthew Nitschke - Visiting Scholar
Maria Teresa Nobre - Visiting Scholar
Dr Mathieu Pernice – Postdoctoral Research Associate
Dr Katherina Petrou – UTS School of Life Sciences
Professor Peter Ralph – Executive Director C3
Mickael Ros - PhD student
Dr Jean-Baptiste Raina – Postdoctoral Research Associate
Dr Nahshon Siboni - Research Associate
Dr Alonso Zavafar - Postdoctoral Research Associate
Rachel Alderdice – PhD student
Research Interests and Capabilities
Coral reef management: An increasing focus is applying knowledge gained from core research into coral reef management practices and policy. For example, identifying areas with high conservation value (e.g. reef systems thriving under natural extremes, source reefs) and developing improved targeted management frameworks. Our core research also immediately applies to developing more innovative management strategies, e.g. hardy species or populations for assisted migration and/or out-planting, and developing of bio-optical tools (and metabolic traits) based diagnostics of stress.
Coral stress ecophysiology: Understanding the patterns and processes that regulate coral susceptibility to stressors, such as eutrophication, global warming and ocean acidification is a key goal for our group. We work across molecular, cellular and organismal (physiological) scales to identify the primary components that are affected by stressors but also how secondary metabolite production (e.g. reactive oxygen, volatile gases) regulates the stress response.
Coral bio-optics and photobiology: Non-destructive techniques to quickly and easily examine coral health are essential to understand the impact of stressors. We specialise in developing bio-optical (and active chlorophyll fluorescence) techniques to advance measurements and monitoring of coral productivity/health. We apply these techniques to a wide range of questions; for example how light availability shapes the biology of corals and their algal symbionts.
Microbial processes and biogeochemical cycling: Corals are profoundly influenced by the composition and function of the bacterial community that lives within and around their tissues. We examine the nature of the microbe-coral interactions, what drives them and consider the implications to long-term coral fitness. We employ a variety of molecular, microbiological and ecogenomic approaches, including metagenomics and metatranscriptomics, to examine the composition and functional capacity of the microbial assemblages associated with healthy, stressed and diseased corals. Also, development and application of sensors to examine how such interactions influence cycling of molecules (CO2, O2, Ca) and to rapidly identify particular microbes of interest (e.g. pathogens).
Symbiodinium physiology and life history: Symbiodinium sp. diversity is a key factor regulating coral fitness. We focus on understanding functional diversity amongst Symbiodinium genotypes of physiological, biochemical and molecular traits, and ultimately how this contributes to the susceptibility of host corals to stress. This focus is tied to examining the life history dynamics between in- and ex-hospite Symbiodinium populations.
Modelling coral responses to environmental change: Our various physiological observations and experiments are closely linked to parameterising and therefore developing/implementing predictive models. Activities range from organism-scale (mechanistic/physiological) to community-scale (ecological) models and numerical simulations to more broadly examine the response of coral species and communities to environmental change.
Current Research Projects
Adaptive strategies of carbon transformation amongst coral symbionts (Symbiodinium spp.) - Mickael Ros PhD project
A novel microbial-algal calcification process driven by coral symbiotic algae: Structure, function, ecological role and evolutionary significance” [collaboration with University of Aveiro]
Coral reefs and climate change in the Seychelles [collaboration with University of Essex]
Corals living in extreme environments, are they potential candidates for our future reefs? [Trent Haydon PhD Project]
Diagnosing coral health tipping points under accelerating coastal hypoxia [ARC Discovery Project DP180100074]
Future-proofting the Great Barrier Reef through climate change-resilient 'super corals' [AMP Tomorrow Fund]
Gas-powered reefs: Is isoprene the key to thermal resilience amongst reef building corals? [Caitlin Lawson PhD Project]
How have corals pushed their limits to thrive in Sydney's backyard? [Sam Goyen PhD project]
Photosynthetic traits as "key performance indicators" of coral health [ARC Discovery Project DP160100271]
Academic Partners and Collaborators
Dr Tracy Ainsworth, University of New South Wales
Dr Mark Baird, CSIRO, Hobart, Australia
Professor Doug Campbell, Mount Allison University, Canada
Associate Professor Peta Clode, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Dr Simon Dunn, A/Prof. Sophie Dove, Prof. Ove-Hoegh Guldberg, University of Queensland, Australia
Dr Oren Levy, Bar Ilan University, Israel
Dr Ross Hill, Macquarie University, Australia
Professor David Kramer, Michigan State University, USA
Associate Professor Todd LaJeunesse, The Pennsylvania State University, USA
Associate Professor Bill Leggat, University of Newcastle
Dr Riccardo Rodolfo-Metalpa, Institute for Research & Development, New Caledonia
Associate Professor João Serôdio, Dr Jörg Frommlet, University of Aveiro, Portugal
Professor David Smith, University of Essex, UK
Dr Madeleine Van Oppen, University of Melbourne and AIMS
Dr Imre Vass, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary
Professor Chistian Voolstra, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia
Professor Mark Warner, University of Delaware, USA
Professor Wah Soon Chow, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Selected Recent Publications
Osman E, Smith DJ, Voolstra CR, Ziegler M, Kurten BP, Suggett DJ. 2018. Thermal refugia against coral bleaching throughout the northern Red Sea. Global Change Biology 24: e474–e484.
Camp EF, Schoepf V, Mumby PJ, Hardtke LA, Rodolfo-Metalpa R, Smith DJ, Suggett DJ. 2018. The future of coral reefs subject to rapid climate change: Lessons from natural extreme environments. Frontiers in Marine Science 5: 4.
Lawson CA, Raina JB, Kahlke T, Seymour JR, Suggett DJ. 2018. Defining the core microbiome of the symbiotic dinoflagellate Symbiodinium. Environmental Microbiology Reports 10: 7-11.
Nitschke MR, Gardner SG, Goyen S, Fujise R, Camp EF, Ralph PJ, Suggett DJ. 2018 Utility of photochemical traits as diagnostics of thermal tolerance amongst Great Barrier Reef corals. Frontiers in Marine Science 5: 45.
Anthony K, Bay LK, Costanza R, Firn J, Gunn J, Harrison P, Heyward A, Lundgren P, Mead D, Moore T, Mumby PJ, van Oppen MJH, Robertson J, Runge MC, Suggett DJ, Schaffelke B, Wachenfeld D, Walshe T. 2017. New interventions are needed to save coral reefs. Nature Ecology & Evolution 1: 1420–1422.
Suggett DJ, Warner ME, Leggat WP. 2017. Coral reef survival to ecological crisis through dinoflagellate functional diversity. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 32(10): 735-745.
Szabo M, Larkum AWD, Suggett DJ, Vass I, Sass L, Osmond CB, Zavafer A, Ralph PJ, Chow WS. 2017. Non-intrusive assessment of photosystem II and photosystem I in whole coral tissues. Frontiers in Marine Science 4: 269.
Levin RA, Voolstra CR, Agrawal S, Steinberg PD, Suggett DJ, van Oppen MJH. 2017. Engineering strategies to decode and enhance the genomes of coral symbionts. Frontiers in Microbiology 8: 1220.
Camp EF, Nitschke MR, Rodolfo-Metalpa R, Houlbreque F, Gardner S, Smith DJ, Zampighi M, Suggett DJ. 2017. Reef-building corals thrive within hot-acidified and deoxygenated waters. Scientific Reports 7: 2434.
Wangpraseurt D, Holm J, Larkum AWD, Pernice M, Ralph PJ, Suggett DJ, Kühl M. 2017. In vivo microscale measurements of light and photosynthesis during coral bleaching: evidence for the optical feedback loop? Frontiers in Microbiology 8: 59.
Camp EF, Smith DJ, Evenhuis C, Enochs I, Manzello D, Woodcock S, Suggett DJ. 2016. Acclimatisation to high variance habitats does not enhance physiological tolerance of two key Caribbean corals to future temperature and pH. Royal Society of London Proceedings B DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0442.
Gardner SG, Nielsen DA, Laczka O, Shimmon R, Beltran VH, Ralph PJ, Petrou K. 2016. Dimethylsulfoniopropionate, superoxide dismutase and glutathione as stress response indicators in three corals under short-term hyposalinity stress. Proceedings of the Royal Society B DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2418.
Jin YK, Lundgren,P, Lutz A, Raina JB, Howell EJ, Paley AS, Willis BL, van Oppen MJH. 2016. Genetic markers for antioxidant capacity in a reef-building coral. Science Advances 2(5): e1500842.
Raina J, Tapiolas D, Motti CA, Foret S, Seemann T, Tebben J, Willis BL, Bourne DG. 2016. Isolation of an antimicrobial compound produced by bacteria associated with reef-building corals. PeerJ 4:e2275.
Slavov C, Schrameyer V, Reus M, Ralph PJ, Hill R, Büchel C, Larkum AWD, Holzwarth AR. 2016. '"Super-quenching" state protects Symbiodinium from thermal stress - Implications for coral bleaching. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1857: 840-847.
Schrameyer V, Krämer W, Hill R, Jeans J, Larkum AWD, Bischof K, Campbell DA, Ralph PJ. 2016. Under high light stress two Indo-Pacific coral species display differential photodamage and photo repair dynamics. Marine Biology 163: 168.
Bio-optical sensing techniques being used to evaluate coral species capacity to tolerate environmental stress.
Coral aquaria facilities that maintains key coral species from the Great Barrier Reef
Measuring photosynthetic performance using advanced multi-wavelength chlorophyll fluorometers
Chlorophyll and associated pigments analysis by UHPLC
Glass micro electrode maps the effect of light scattering on Oxygen produced from individual coral polyps.
In The News
"$60 million to save the Great Barrier Reef is a drop in the ocean, but we have to try" The Conversation (January 2018)
Great Barrier Reef Legacy Expedition searches for "super corals" (November 2017)
High-level Workshop Discusses Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs (October 2017)
French-Australian workshop on the protection of coral reefs in Sydney (August 2017)
Coral Compounds (Feb 2017)
Sydney Harbour reefs showing signs of recovery (August 2016)
Sydney's corals now bleaching (April 2016)
Coral bleaching found in Sydney Harbour (April 2016)
Great Barrier Reef bleaching event: what happens next? (March 2016)
"Extreme" corals could hold key to species survival (Feb 2016)
ARC grant successes support discovery in law, science and technology (Nov 2015)
Corals on the Edge (August 2015)
What lies beneath (June 2015)
"Safe house" discovery a new insight on reef ecology (May 2015)
Uncovering the climate gases that control our coral coasts (Nov 2014)
Associate Professor David Suggett PhD
Climate Change Cluster (C3)
Faculty of Science
University of Technology Sydney
15 Broadway, Ultimo NSW 2007
Phone: +61 02 9514 1900
Coral Ecophysiology processes group
UTS C3 coral specialist David Suggett discusses his use of bio-optical sensors to measure the health and productivity of organisms that photosynthesise such as coral.
Coral Bleaching in Sydney Harbour
PhD candidate Samantha Goyen conducting video transects and takes tissue biopsies of the coral Plesiastrea versipora, which is currently bleaching in Sydney Harbour.
Coral Compounds Research
Associate Professor David Suggett leads the Future Reefs research program in the UTS Climate Change Cluster (C3). His team is developing unique facilities and techniques to work with coral related industries so that wild harvesting of corals can be reduced and coral reef ecosystems protected and conserved. The team is also investigating potential for bioactive compounds.