My research is focused broadly on marine community ecology. My primary research goal is to understand how ecological processes and environmental changes influence interactions between microbes and their hosts, particularly habitat-forming species, and how disruptions to these interactions affect associated biodiversity. I combine large-scale surveys with experiments to gain mechanistic understanding of the causes and consequences of species’ declines, and to provide sensible, practical solutions.
My research is focused broadly on marine ecology and conservation. I integrate theoretical and applied ecology with cutting-edge environmental genomics to understand the mechanisms that cause species’ declines and to restore degraded habitats.
Current core projects:
Restoration of underwater forests
Large brown seaweeds (macroalgae) form extensive underwater forests that underpin biodiversity and key ecosystem functions and services on temperate rocky reefs worldwide. These productive forests are, however, declining globally due to multiple human impacts. ‘Crayweed’ (Phyllospora comosa) is an important habitat-forming alga that disappeared from the Sydney coastline in the early 1980’s, possibly due to poor water quality. Despite significant improvements in water quality since the 1990’s, crayweed has not re-established. This project – a.k.a. ‘Operation Crayweed’ – aims to determine the ecological processes and interactions that influence colonisation and survival of crayweed in order to restore crayweed forests and the biodiversity and functions they support.
Microorganisms are ubiquitous in the ocean and play a fundamental role in the life of dominant marine hosts. This project investigates the mechanisms by which microbial communities influence the functioning of seaweed hosts and protect them from environmental stress.
IMOS AUV benthic observing program
This project uses Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV), which are part of the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), to quantify benthic biodiversity at a continental scale. The aim is to determine the long-term and large-scale effects of Marine Protected Areas and climatic change on benthic biodiversity.
Dr Gregorio Bigatti (CONICET), Dr Alexandra Campbell, Dr Melinda Coleman (NSW DPI), Dr Renata Ferrari (USYD), Dr Brendan Kelaher (SCU), Prof. Peter Steinberg, Prof. Sanjay Swarup (SCELSE, NUS), Prof. Torsten Thomas, Dr Adriana Vergés, Prof. Thomas Wernberg (UWA), Prof. Stefan Williams (USYD)
In the Media:
Southern Courier – Art exhibit makes big splash
Daily Telegraph – University of NSW project restores lost underwater forests
Sydney Morning Herald - Crowdfunding campaign to restore Sydney's lost crayweed forests
Georgina Wood (PhD candidate) – Does crayweed genetic diversity enhance restoration success? (jointly supervised with Dr Adriana Vergés, co-supervised by Dr Melinda Coleman)
Lana Kajlich (PhD candidate) – Giving underwater forests a helping hand: can science communication and the arts drive communities to engage restoration? (Co-supervised with Dr Adriana Vergés, Prof. Peter Steinberg and Dr Alexandra Campbell)
Zhiguang “Galaxy” Qiu (PhD candidate) – Genomic and transcriptomic characterisation of the kelp Ecklonia radiata and its associated microbial community in response to different infection scenarios and environmental conditions. (jointly supervised with Prof. Peter Steinberg and Dr Alexandra Campbell)
Rebecca Neumann (PhD candidate) – Environmental stress, chemical defences and disease in the habitat-forming kelp Ecklonia radiata (Co-supervised with Prof. Peter Steinberg and Dr Tilmann Harder)
Dr Ana Bugnot (USYD) - The ecological interactions between native fauna and the invasive isopod Cirolana harfordi (Co-supervised with A/Prof. Ross Coleman and Dr Will Figueira)
Adam Camilleri (Honours candidate) – The impacts of sea urchins and structural complexity on the restoration of crayweed. (jointly supervised with Dr Adriana Vergés, co-supervised by Dr Renata Ferrari)
Nigel Coombes (BSc Honours, 2016) – Impacts of herbivores on crayweed restoration success (jointly supervised with Dr Adriana Vergés)
Mat Skye (BSc Honours, 2014) – What is the role of herbivory in mediating the latitudinal and depth distribution of Ecklonia radiata? (Co-supervised with Dr Adriana Vergés, Dr Alex Campbell and Dr Hamish Malcom)
Marty Leong (BSc Honours, 2013). Marine invertebrate communities and the restoration of missing underwater forests in Sydney. (Co-supervised with Dr Adriana Vergés and Dr Alexandra Campbell)
I am very keen on talking to potential Honours and/or PhD students interested in marine ecology. Projects can be within the broad topics listed above or can be new, exciting ideas of your own.
The Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation (CMB) is a very collaborative, multidisciplinary group, with research interests that extend across the areas of macro-ecology, microbial ecology and evolution, and chemistry. We strongly encourage potential students to talk to past and present students and staff to get an idea on how the lab is like.
MSCI0501 The Marine Environment (Course co-convenor and Lecturer)
MSCI6681 Topics in Australian Marine Science (Lecturer)
BIOS3091 Marine and Aquatic Ecology (Guest Lecturer)
MSCI2001 Introductory Marine Science (Guest Lecturer)
Review Editor for Frontiers in Ecology & Evolution and Frontiers in Marine Science.
Journal reviewer for Ecology; Ecological Monographs; Oecologia; Marine Ecology Progress Series; PLoS ONE; Marine Biology; Marine Environmental Research; Aquaculture; Journal of Phycology; Restoration Ecology and others.
Health & Safety Commitee member, Sydney Institute of Marine Science.
Australian Government 2006 Endeavour International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (IPRS)
University of Sydney 2006 International Postgraduate Awards (IPA)
University of Buenos Aires Beca Estímulo 2005