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I am a Marine Biologist by education... however, over the years I came to realize that often the smallest of the players are responsible for the most crucial ecological roles...

That also applies to corals and coral reefs, my study subject for over 15 years. Combining coral reef science with microbial ecology has become a fascinating adventure!

2018 GRC on Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems


17th ISME


Last June I joined a team of researchers from the University of Queensland, Australia, coordinated by Dr. Pim Bongaerts, to help them monitor the mass bleaching event that struck vast areas of the Great Barrier Reef. Particular objectives of this ongoing project are to ascertain whether the bleaching is pervasive towards the deep reef and whether the deeper areas of the reef have the potential to re-seed the heavily affected shallow-reef.

Collected samples will also allow interrogating the role microbial communities play alongside bleaching, either by acting as a buffer against increasing seawater temperatures, or by actually becoming more virulent and further contributing to coral death.

Sadly, the GBR was hit as never before and if globally rising seawater temperatures are not controlled then coral reefs around the world will face unprecedented and irreversible damage.

In the project "Coral's gastric cavity: a bioreactor for microbe-driven metabolic pathways" my team applies a multidisciplinary approach combining mesocosm experiments, microscale physicochemical characterization, genetic and enzymatic profiling of metabolic machinery and stable isotope labelling. The objective is to produce a holistic view on the potential of the coral’s gastric cavity as natural bioreactor for cycling of nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and sulphur. Ultimately, the proposed research aims at pinpointing metabolic pathways for the future applicability of the gastric cavity of corals as bioreactor to mediate the health condition of corals and the resilience of surrounding ecosystems. This project will be running at CCMAR at the University of Algarve in Portugal, from early 2016 and for the coming years. First experiments and collections are undergoing, and we are on the lookout for needed funding.

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