Elizabeth Kaplan - AIMS@JCU

Elizabeth Kaplan

e.kaplan.10@student.scu.edu.au

Masters by research
Southern Cross University

Elizabeth Kaplan

e.kaplan.10@student.scu.edu.au

Masters by research
Southern Cross University
Investigating the Performance of Genetically Diverse Symbiodiniaceae in Mixed Cultures and Inoculations

Elizabeth graduated from the University at Buffalo in May of 2019 with a Bachelors of Science in Biological Science. She concentrated in evolution and ecology and completed the University Honours program. Her thesis was entitled, Competitive Interactions Between Strains of Breviolum Antillogorgium Under Temperature Stress, and was completed under the supervision of Mary Alice Coffroth, Ph.D.
After graduating Elizabeth moved to Australia to pursue a graduate degree in marine science.
She enjoys diving, climbing, and hiking in her free time.

Investigating the Performance of Genetically Diverse Symbiodiniaceae in Mixed Cultures and Inoculations

2022 to 2024

Project Description

This project aims to assess the fitness and thermal tolerance of early life stage corals whilst in symbiosis with a range of Symbiodiniaceae cultures. Building off of previous studies where a coral host has been inoculated with a single symbiont strain, this project seeks to examine the effects of multiple thermally tolerant strains on a single host.

Project Importance

The results of this project will provide important information about the feasibility of using multiple symbiont strains during polyp inoculation. We will learn whether or not multiple types of symbionts can persist together in-hospite, as well as which strains are more prone to coexistence. We will also discover more about the persistence of multiple strains through thermal and temporal fluctuations, and if symbiont shuffling still occurs with laboratory evolved symbionts.

Project Methods

Juvenile corals will be inoculated with mixed cultures and monitored over 6-12 months in aquaria that have other corals and thus will serve as exposure to additional symbionts. Measurements such as polyp size, pigmentation, algal cell density, and quantum yield would provide information on the fitness of the holobiont, and the relative abundance of strains will be measured over time using quantitative genetics tools (qPCR or ddPCR). At approximately 6 months post infection, the juveniles will be subjected to a heat stress experiment to assess holobiont performance. The relative abundance of strains within juveniles will be quantified before and after the heat stress experiment.

Project Results

Identifying which heat-evolved strains can co-exist with one another over their first 6-12 months post-infection and simultaneously convey a physiological advantage to their host would allow us to develop a “toolkit” of symbionts. This “toolkit” would allow for symbiont shuffling, allowing thermal tolerance to be conveyed across a wide range of environmental conditions and life stages.

Keywords

Algae,
Climate change,
Controlled Environment,
Coral reefs,
Corals,
Genetics,
Interaction,
Management tools,
Manipulative experiments,
Molecular techniques,
Ocean warming,
Physiology,
Quantitative marine science,
Temporal change

Supervised By:

Madeleine van Oppen (AIMS)

Cherie Ann Motti (AIMS)

David Abrego (Southern Cross University)