We study reef-forming corals, the organisms that sustain the entire productivity and biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems.
Our goal is to understand how environmental conditions influence the coral ‘holobiont’ (the coral and its associated microbial communities) and therefore how local stressors and climate change 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 inform how reefs will look and function into the future, but also how to better preserve and re-build "healthy reefs".
Associate Professor David Suggett
Dr Emma Camp
Research Fellow/DECRA and CPDRF Fellow
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Dr Jennifer Matthews
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Dr Mathieu Pernice
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Dr Jean-Baptiste Raina
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Dr Nahshon Siboni
Dr Tim Kahlke
Associate Professor Shauna Murray
ARC Future Fellow
Dr Matthew Nitschke
Professor Michael Kuhl
Distinguished Research Professor
Dr Katherina Petrou
UTS School of Life Sciences
Professor Peter Ralph
Executive Director C3
Professor Justin Seymour
Team Leader, Ocean Microbes
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. We implemented the first multi-species coral nursery on the Great Barrier Reef, and develop innovative solutions to maintain and “rebuild” coral biomass in partnership with Great Barrier Reef tour operators.
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.
Applying an integrative taxonomic approach to resolve systematics of the Acropora hyacinthus (Scleractinia, Cnidaria) species complex in the Indo-Pacific; Sage Fitzgerald MSc Project.
Coral health in future climates: Diagnosing tipping points under accelerating coastal hypoxia; ARC Discovery Project.
Coral reefs and climate change in the Seychelles; collaboration with University of Essex, UK.
Corals living in extreme environments, are they potential candidates for our future reefs? Trent Haydon, PhD Project.
Elemental diagnostics of coral resilience to future reef climates; Dr Emma Camp, DECRA Fellowship.
Future-proofing 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.
Molecular cartography of coral-symbiotic algae in 3D; Dr Matthew Nitschke, Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship.
Microbial metabolic networks: the hidden key to resilience of coral algal endosymbionts; Dr Jennifer Matthews Human Frontier Science Program Fellowship.
Revealing the mechanistic basis for coral hypoxia sensitivity versus tolerance through coupled metagenomic-metabolomics platforms; Rachel Alderdice PhD Project.
Scaling up coral restoration using innovative Symbiodinium co-culture and mass larval supply on reefs; Advance QLD Small Business Innovation Round.
Solving the bottleneck of reef rehabilitation through boosting coral abundance: Miniaturising and mechanising coral out-planting; Advance QLD Small Business Innovation Round.
Academic partners and collaborators
Dr Tracy Ainsworth, University of New South Wales
Professor Manuel Aranda, Dr Sebastian Schmidt-Roach, Dr Shannon Klein, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia
Dr Mark Baird, CSIRO, Hobart, Australia
Dr Line Bay, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australia
Dr Lisa Boström-Einarsson and Dr Ian McLeod, JCU Tropwater, Australia
Professor Doug Campbell, Mount Allison University, Canada
Ms Katie Chartrand, JCU Tropwater, Australia
Associate Professor Peta Clode, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Professor Simon Davy, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Dr Simon Dunn, A/Prof. Sophie Dove, Prof. Ove-Hoegh Guldberg, University of Queensland, Australia
Professor Peter Harrison, Southern Cross University, Australia
Dr Oren Levy, Bar Ilan University, Israel
Professor David Kramer, Dr Atsuko Kanazawa, Michigan State University, USA
Associate Professor Todd LaJeunesse, The Pennsylvania State University, USA
Associate Professor Bill Leggat, University of Newcastle
Dr Josh Patterson, University of Florida & The Florida Aquarium, USA
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
Professor Madeleine Van Oppen, University of Melbourne and Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australia
Dr Imre Vass, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary
Professor Christian Voolstra, University of Konstanz, Germany
Professor Mark Warner, University of Delaware, USA
Professor Wah Soon Chow, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Selected recent publications
Lohr KE, Camp EF, Kuzhiumparambil U, Lutz A, Leggat W, Patterson JT, Suggett DJ. 2019. Resolving coral photoacclimation dynamics through coupled photophysiological and metabolomic profiling. Journal of Experimental Biology. doi: 10.1242/jeb.195982.
Suggett DJ, Camp EF, Edmondson J, Boström-Einarsson L, Ramler V, Lohr K, Patterson J. 2019. Optimizing return-on-effort for coral nursery and out-planting practices to aid restoration of the Great Barrier Reef. Restoration Ecology 27: 683-693. Journal cover image.
Gardner SG, Camp EF, Smith DJ, Kahlke T, Osman EO, Hume BCC, Pogoreutz C, Voolstra CR, Suggett DJ. 2019. Microbiome diversity underpins coral bleaching dynamics during the 2016 El Niño-mass bleaching. Ecology & Evolution 9: 938-956.
Camp EF, Schoepf V, Suggett DJ. 2018. How can “Super Corals” facilitate global coral reef survival under rapid environmental and climatic change? Global Change Biology 24: 2755-2757.
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.
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 283: 20152418.
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.
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.
Developing low tech solutions to propagate and out-plant corals to rebuild biomass on the Great Barrier Reef
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
Emma Frances Camp
Young Leaders: Sustainable Development Goals
A discussion with Dr Emma Camp, Coral Conservationist and 2019 Rolex Awards for Enterprise Associate Laureate
Mission Blue: Sylvia Earle Alliance | June 2019
Can new science save dying reefs
National Geographic | December 2018
Research feature on Future Reefs restoration and "super coral" research.
$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"
Great Barrier Reef Legacy YouTube | November 2017
High-level Workshop Discusses Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs
International Atomic Energy Agency | October 2017
French-Australian workshop on the protection of coral reefs in Sydney
Embassy of France | August 2017
UTS | Feb 2017
Sydney Harbour reefs showing signs of recovery
ABC News | August 2016
Sydney's corals now bleaching
Sydney Morning Herald | April 2016
Coral bleaching found in Sydney Harbour
ABC News | April 2016
Great Barrier Reef bleaching event: what happens next?
The Conversation | March 2016
"Extreme" corals could hold key to species survival
UTS Newsroom | Feb 2016
ARC grant successes support discovery in law, science and technology UTS Newsroom | Nov 2015
Corals on the Edge
UTS Newsroom | August 2015
What lies beneath
UTS Newsroom | June 2015
"Safe house" discovery a new insight on reef ecology
UTS Newsroom | May 2015
Uncovering the climate gases that control our coral coasts
UTS Newsroom | 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
Future Reefs Program
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.