Julia Saper - AIMS@JCU

Julia Saper

julia.saper@my.jcu.edu.au

Masters by research
College of Science and Engineering

Julia Saper

julia.saper@my.jcu.edu.au

Masters by research
College of Science and Engineering
Augmented Coral Health: Linking heterotrophic diets to nutritional enhancement and microbial acqusition in Scleractinia.

Julia hails from northern California where she developed an affinity for all things aquatic. In fact, at the age of 12 she started leading unoffcial tours of the Monterey Bay Aquarium where she would identify the phlya, genus ans species of temperate marine organisms to anyone who would listen to her ramblings.

Since graduating from Emory University in 2016 with a B.S in Environmental Science and Biology, she pursued a number of oppurtunities in the realm of marine conservation specifically, coral reef restoration and the endangered California sea otter temporal-spatial dynamics and foraging ecology.

When she is not studying, she can be found above sea level climbing rocky cliffs or below sea level diving for fun. She also finds joy in teaching kids about the environment and outdoor recreation as a certified abseiling guide.

Augmented Coral Health: Linking heterotrophic diets to nutritional enhancement and microbial acqusition in Scleractinia.

2019 to 2021

Project Description

Optimal nutrition is paramount to the health of all organisms. The purpose of this study is to characterize and improve the nutritional status of corals in captive, experimental systems. Experimental aquarium trials will subject coral fragments to different feeding regimes including live zooplankton, novel formulated diets, and putative bacterial probiotics.

Project Importance

Results from this study will demonstrate how various feeding regimes may benefit corals’ energetically and potentially result in the acquisition of beneficial microbial communities. Insights into nutritional supplementation of corals as a means to augment holobiont health could allow for the direct application of feeds on a larger scale to increase resilience in populations under acute environmental stress.

Project Methods

The objectives set forth in this project will be fulfilled through controlled, aquaria and lab based experimental trials. Health of corals will be assessed by analyzing lipid and fatty acid profiles through gas chromatography as well as basic physiological metrics, such as growth and survival. Microbial acqusition will be analyzed by observations under multi-channell flourescence microscopy images of live coral and tissue sections to visualized the fate of flourescently labelled bacterial delivered to coral fragments.

Project Results

The two most exciting things discovered thus far are 1) The vast differences in feeding strategies employed by the three coral species (Acropora millepora, Pocillopora acuta and Galaxea fascicularis). Acropora millepora colonies produce large excretions of mucus which seemingly trap delivered prey items yet don't get consumed by the animal itself. Instead, the detach from the coral's tentacles and remain suspended in the solution. 2) For microbial studies, via four-parental conjugation procedures, recipient bacterial cells isolated from corals have been transconguated to express 4 different colors of flourescent protein genes. Whether or not this procedure was successful in inserting these flourescent protein genes into the recipient bacterial cell's chromosome or if it simply is sitting extra-chromosomally in the form of a plasmid will be checked via genome sequencing of two genetically enegineered strains. Hopefully, the usage of flourescently labelled, potentially beneficial bacteria, will be able to be vectored into the coral colonies to understand more about where bacteria end up within a coral and if the use of delivering probiotics to aquaculture corals is promising. There is so much to learn about how corals assimilate nutrients through exogenous feeds and the role of microorganisms in maintaining homeostasis in corals. There is no better place to conduct this type of research than in the SeaSim!

Keywords

Aquaculture,
Bacteria,
Behaviour,
Climate change,
Controlled Environment,
Coral reefs,
Corals,
Disease,
Ecology,
Genetics,
Management tools,
Microbiology,
Molecular techniques,
Plankton