We study the emergent traits of photosynthetic algae in different environments. Research in the COAST lab at UTS:C3 is motivated by a fundamental interest in how photosynthetic organisms respond to natural and human-induced changes in their environment. Using cutting-edge approaches, our goal is to improve the way we can manage and benefit from the primary producers that underpin aquatic ecosystems.
Professor Martina Doblin: The name of my research group is Productive Coasts, and we largely research in three areas. The first is in climate change and how microorganisms, especially the photosynthetic microorganisms that grow in the ocean, how they’re responding to changes in the ocean.
The second area of research is on aquatic biosecurity and water quality, a really essential part of living sustainably in our cities. And the third element of our research program really concerns what can we make out of algae? So, algae are these microscopic plankton and we can grow them in artificial systems to produce useful products for society.
The research is allowing us to really help underpin a more sustainable future for society, so if we’re able to understand how the future ocean will work, we’ll be able to adapt and anticipate those changes better to adapt marine industries. We’ll also be able to live more sustainably in cities, treating sewage and stormwater discharges appropriately and designing infrastructure that will allow that to happen.
We’ve been able to, through our research, really open up a new frame for understanding impacts of climate change on microorganisms. So, rather than seeing them fixed in place, like a coral reef, plankton and microscopic plankton move through the ocean. They drift. And so we’re actually using this moving frame to understand their environmental experience.
One of our key research questions is what will happen to these organisms if they no longer have changes in the environment that are predictable? The ocean is becoming a little bit more chaotic, a little bit more disturbed through all the impacts of warming and acidification, and so these organisms are living in an increasingly unpredictable world and our research is really taking us into a direction where we’re able to understand that better.
In the new three to five years, I think Productive Coasts will really be working much more closely with engineers and modellers to come up with integrated solutions for managing, for example, water quality. The second thing that we will do is really start to understand algal metabolism in a way that we can tweak it so that these organisms can utilise sunlight but also create products that are useful for our society.
Martina Doblin - Team leader
Phoebe Argyle - Research Associate
Michaela Larsson - Postdoctoral Research Associate
Bernhard Tschitschko - Research Associate
Justin Seymour - Team Leader Ocean Microbes and Healthy Oceans
Shauna Murray - Team Leader Seafood Safety: Marine Algal Biotoxins
Katherina Petrou - School of Life Sciences
Peter Ralph - C3 Director
Giselle Firme - PhD candidate - Plasticity of phytoplankton in a changing ocean and implications for primary productivity in Eastern Australian waters
Peta Vine – PhD candidate - Evolution of phytoplankton functional traits under different types of environmental variability
Matthias Windhagauer – PhD candidate - Optimising diatom metabolism for bioplastic production
Dr Leonardo Laiolo - CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere
Dr Jason Everett - postdoctoral research Fellow UNSW
Dr Olivier Laczka - Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Allison McInnes - ARC Research Fellow
Dr Virginie van Dongen-Vogels - Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Marco Alvarez (PhD) - Influence of phytoplankton cell size on biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen.
Kirralee G. Baker (PhD) - The direct implications of warming on the phenotype and underlying functional traits of marine phytoplankton https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/handle/10453/90058
Jennifer S. Clark (PhD) - Assessing the vulnerability of a habitat forming macroalga to climate warming: roles of physiology, ecology and evolutionary processes in determining resilience https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/handle/10453/116764
Ying Hong (PhD) - The role of zooplankton in cyanobacteria bloom development in Australian reservoirs https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/handle/10453/23487
Louisa Norman (PhD) - The role of natural organic ligands in transformations of iron chemistry in seawater and their effect on the bioavailability of iron to marine phytoplankton https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/handle/10453/38383
Michaela E. Larsson (PhD) – Understanding the ecological niche of toxin producing dinoflagellates
- Increasing participation in ocean science through data visualisation. Citizen Science Grants (2017-2020)
- Incorporating new knowledge of phytoplankton diversity and nutrient utilisation into an ocean-climate model to improve forecasts of ocean function. ARC Discovery DP140101340 (2014 – 2016).
- Marine and Coastal Carbon Biogeochemistry Cluster: Pelagic community metabolism. CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund: (2013 – 2015).
- A transportable containerised laboratory for rapid cell sorting and high-resolution bioimaging of living aquatic microbes in field locations. ARC Large Infrastructure and Equipment Fund LE130100019 (2013 – 2014). Micro CSI
- Experimental evolution in zooxanthellae (Symbiodinium spp.) and its value in assisted adaptation of corals to temperature increases. Great Barrier Reef Foundation (2012 – 2014).
Current student opportunities
Professional Links and Collaborations
Integrated Marine Observing System (opens an external site)
Marine National Facility (opens an external site)
CSIRO Land and Water - Environmental Earth Observation Group (opens an external site)
CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research - Wealth from Oceans Flagship (opens an external site)
Living Data (opens an external site)
BD Biosciences Influx mariner rapid cell sorter and cytometer
GE InCell 2000 high content analyser (bioimager)
Sydney Institute of Marine Science - Dr Martina Doblin IMOS excerpt
Tracey Holmes: SIMS looks after the NSW stretch of The Integrated Marine Observing System. Dr Martina Doblin heads up the IMOS research
MD: Just as the Bureau of Meteorology monitors the state of our weather around Australia, IMOS monitors the status of the ocean. The key goal of IMOS is to monitor the physical, chemical and biological status of the ocean.
SIMS hosts 3 important facilities: one of them is the Australian Animal Tagging and Monitoring System. So, this facility tracks animal movements from fishes to sharks and mammals from the Australian continent all the way down to Antarctica.
Another facility is the Australian Autonomous Underwater Facility: this monitors the state of the seafloor by taking high-resolution imagery.
The third facility is the Moorings Network. This facility monitors the state of the physical and biological environment in multiple locations along the New South Wales coastline.
IMOS is a really integral part to the research program here at SIMS.
Coastal Oceanography and Algal Research
UTS C3 researcher Martina Doblin discusses importance of Australian coastal marine ecosystems and the portable micro lab technology she uses to look at live microscopic cells right close to the ocean to better understand how they're functioning.