Bringing the Reef to life

PhD student Florent Angly on Heron Island as part of the CReefs expedition.
Image: Angus Livingston


Monday 8 September
READING about coral reefs in a book and seeing them for yourself are two completely different things.
French PhD student Florent Angly discovered just how different they were when he volunteered to come to Heron Island as part of the CReefs project.
"I started learning about reefs and coral biology without having been on a reef," he said.
Florent, studying for his PhD in Computational Science at San Diego State University, made contact with Dr Laetitia Plaisance, who told him about the CReefs project and the trip to Heron Island.
He travelled to Australia to volunteer on the Island and help Laetitia with her study of the number and type of crustaceans, molluscs and echinoderms on the reefs.
Florent has been out diving and snorkelling with the rest of the team, collecting samples to examine back in the lab and enjoying the beautiful sights underwater.
He said the physical experience of being out in the water helped him tremendously in understanding what he had learned from books.
"I think it is very useful to go and dive and see what is there," he said.
"I realise that now I can recognise coral much better and appreciate which sites are good and which are not."
PhD student Florent Angly on Heron Island as part of the CReefs expedition.
As part of his time on the island, Florent broke up dead coral heads to check for organisms, and found out there was more living in the coral than he ever expected.
"I had the notion that some organisms would grow in and on the coral skeletons, but I didn't really know what it would be like. It's a mess, with lots of species and individuals inhabiting a single coral head!" he said.
Florent's PhD is in computational science, but he is interested in biology and would like to use his doctorate to work in that field.