Waypoint Winter 2015



Researcher Q & A: SeaSim experiments vital to understanding water quality

Researcher Q & A: SeaSim experiments vital to understanding water quality

4. Adriana Humanes on Great Barrier Reef. Image: AIMS

Adriana Humanes came to AIMS from Venezuela to study. She is a passionate advocate of the SeaSim and AIMS facilities. She talks about the ‘smartest aquarium in the world’, why she came to Australia and her experiments into water quality.


1 Q: When did you come to Australia?

1 A: I arrived in Australia in mid 2012. I came here to do a PhD at James Cook University. I am passionate about coral reproduction. It has always been my dream to dive in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and meet and learn from the researchers who first discovered coral spawning here near Magnetic Island off Townsville!

2 Q: For how long will you be at AIMS?

2 A: I have been at AIMS since the beginning of my PhD, as I have done all my research at AIMS laboratories, so I will be at AIMS for the entire period of my PhD!

3 Q: What particular functions of the SeaSim are important for your research?

3 A: SeaSim facilities have allowed me to control multiple stressors like temperature, sediments and nutrients under controlled laboratory conditions such as ultrafiltered seawater and constant room temperature. Conducting a PhD focused only on coral reproduction is highly risky, since things can always go wrong during the night of spawning and you may need to wait a year to repeat an experiment – that does it not make it easier!

Since last year, the SeaSim’s facilities and staff have allowed us to perform up to three spawning events in a year, something that was unthinkable in the past.

This has allowed me to participate in seven spawning events so far.


4Q. What do you like most about AIMS?

4A: AIMS brings together a group of people from many different backgrounds that share a common interest in marine ecosystems, specially coral reefs. This creates a great platform for discussion of new ideas.

The AIMS community has also helped me through the whole process of developing my experiments -from the security guards keeping an eye on us when we work long hours at night during spawning, to accommodation trying to fit all people involved in coral spawning at AIMS facilities, workshops to develop special setups for our experiments, and the researchers that always offer advice when requested.

I have gained knowledge from experimental design, laboratory work, safety at work and scientific writing, to pluming and tanks maintenance!


5Q. What are the multiple stressors on the reef that you are studying?

5A: I am studying the effects of land-runoff and climate change on the early reproductive and growth stages of hard corals. I focused on sediments, in suspension and as deposits and also nutrient enrichment. Temperature is the main stress I am studying.


6Q. Who is sponsoring your research?

6A: I have a scholarship from the Australian Government from the program AusAID that covers my fees at James Cook University and pays for my stipend. My research at AIMS is part of a National Environmental Research Program (NERP) project.


7Q. How will your research be used by business or industry or researchers?

7A: The results of my research will indicate which early reproductive or growth stages are most sensitive to the effects of sediments, nutrients and temperature.

The results will highlight where and when conservation and management strategies should be focused. This information will also be useful for decision making, I hope, regarding the treatment of wastewater in land areas close to the GBR, as well as coastal dredging.