SeaSim coral spawning activities
- understand natural variation and the inheritance of temperature tolerance
- extend the GBR coral cryo-repository
- attempt to enhance coral resilience
- conduct experiments that examine the effects of dredging sediments, water quality and climate change on coral reproduction and their early life stages.
2015 spawning activities
AIMS, University of Melbourne, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Swinburne University of Technology, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Prof Madeleine van Oppen
Prof Ruth Gates
Dr Victor Beltran
Ms Lesa Peplow
Ms Wing Chan
Ms Katarina Damjanovic
Ms Leela Chakravarti
Prof Ary Hoffman
Prof Linda Blackall
Prof Bette Willis
Dr Bill Leggat
This project will use 'assisted evolution' - the active genetic manipulation of native coral populations - to increase the rate of naturally occurring evolutionary processes in order to enhance certain traits such as environmental stress resistance and growth rate. During this year's spawning event, three approaches will be followed:
- Different coral species are crossed in order to create new genetic combinations on which selection can act to enhance stress tolerance. This component of the research has linkages to Paul Allen foundation/Vulcan funding to Gates and van Oppen.
- Early coral life stages are inoculated with a wide range of species of algal symbionts to assess whether new coral-algal combinations can be formed; stability and the environmental stress tolerance of these associations will be assessed. This component of the research has linkages to Paul Allen foundation/Vulcan funding to Gates and van Oppen.
- Early coral life stages are inoculated with bacteria isolated from stress susceptible and stress tolerant coral species; stability and the environmental stress tolerance of these associations will be assessed. This component of the research has linkages to the Australian Research Council Discovery grant to van Oppen and Blackall.
Genetic markers of climate change adaptation in corals
AIMS, James Cook University, University of Texas - Austin, USA
Dr Line Bay
Dr Carly Kenkel
Prof. Bette Willis
Maria Nayfa (PhD student) and others
Climate change brings about three well-documented coral stressors: rising sea surface temperatures, that lead to coral bleaching; ocean acidification that affects calcification processes and skeletal growth, and increased bacterial loads resulting in a greater incidence of coral disease. Persistence of coral species into the future will require adaptation to each of these stressors and their combined effects.
Our project examines the potential for corals to adapt to increased temperatures, acidification and bacterial loads and the physiological and genetic mechanisms by which this process occurs. We will measure variation in coral fitness traits in response to single and compound climate stressors in coral families with known relatedness. We will then estimate trait heritabilities and use genomic analyses to identify the genetic basis of these traits. Using SeaSim facilities, this team will rear a large number of coral larvae from controlled crosses through to settlement. During the larval period, metamorphosis and juvenile stage the team will measure a range of physiological attributes to test whether performance under singular climate change conditions predicts performance when stressors are combined. The team will also develop genetic markers of stress tolerance and analyse the distribution of tolerant gene variants in coral populations across natural environmental gradients.
Dredging and coral reproduction
AIMS, Western Australian Marine Science Institute, University of Western Australia
Sediments released from dredging activities can reduce or block light, clog feeding and smother coral. The sediments can also affect many aspects of coral reproduction and recruitment processes and this project aims to understand the impact of dredging sedimentation on early life history stages of coral.
Cumulative effects of climate change and water quality early life history stages of corals
AIMS, NERP, James Cook University
Monsoonal flood plumes deliver organically-enriched sediment into the GBR Lagoon, often coinciding with mass coral spawning and high summer temperatures. This research project investigates the combined impacts of organically enriched sediments and temperature on the coral reproduction, from fertilisation to the survival of coral recruits.
Coal dust and coral spawning
AIMS, James Cook University
Dr Andrew Negri
Dr Mia Hoogenboom
Kathryn Berry (PhD student) and others
Coal particles from loading facilities and shipping accidents may interact with coral in a variety of ways. During coral spawning floating eggs and coal dust may mingle at the ocean surface, while juvenile corals may experience larger sinking particles. This project aims to determine if any of the various life stages of coral are vulnerable to accidental encounters with coal.
Oil spills and coral spawning
Dr Andrew Negri
Florita Flores and others
Oil from spills and leaks can interact with corals at the water surface and under the ocean. Millimetre long coral will be exposed to oils under controlled conditions to measure the sensitivity of this critical stage in the corals life history. These results can be used by industry and regulators to assess the risks posed to corals by spills and leaks.
Toxicity of pesticides, their formulations and breakdown products
AIMS, University of Queensland, NERP
Pesticides from agricultural runoff have been detected in waters of the GBR but little is known of the potential toxicity of their breakdown products and formulations that may contain industrial detergents. A series of experiments will expose coral larvae to these contaminants to assess their sensitivity vs priority pesticides that are currently measured and managed.