The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) is Australia’s tropical marine research agency. We play a pivotal role in providing large-scale, long-term and world-class research that helps governments, industry and the wider community to make informed decisions about the management of Australia’s marine estate. We use innovative scientific and technological research methods to address real needs and provide impartial, authoritative advice, supporting the protection and sustainable use of our marine heritage.
In order to define the molecular mechanisms that underpin acquired tolerance to ocean warming and ocean acidification of key reef-building organisms from the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea, species including Ircinia ramosa have been exposed to current and future IPCC climate conditions at the National Sea Simulator at AIMS. Understanding these molecular mechanisms will provide us with a deeper understanding of the evolutionary capacities of coral-reef organisms and enable us to better predict how these ecosystems will respond to future climate changes. There is a critical need to expand our understanding of the molecular basis of tolerance and the natural ability of coral reef populations to respond to increasing temperature and pCO2 using mechanisms such as altered gene expression, shifts in symbiosis and gene body methylation. Investigating gene expression shifts in host organisms and their corresponding microbial symbiont communities exposed to varied temperature and pCO2 will help elucidate how gene expression and symbiont communities influences coral reef acclimatisation to shifting environmental conditions. This project will utilize genomic resources which have already been generated in order to best interpret symbiont gene expression profiles.
This research project is a part of a larger research focus in collaboration between AIMS and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, and will be supervised by Bioinformatician Dr Patrick Laffy and Principal Research Scientist Nicole Webster at AIMS. AIMS offers unparalleled facilities and expertise within the National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) to complete the experimental component of the research and undertake coral and sponge spawning activities to obtain larvae and juveniles.