Aquatic symbiosis research collaboration awarded Moore Foundation grant

A Faculty of Science team has been awarded funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to study the movement of bacteria that live inside corals.

The Foundation’s Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative is investing $19 million over the next three years to support 42 teams of scientists working collaboratively to develop tools and methods to advance model systems in aquatic symbiosis.

The funding will support a new project bringing together a multi-disciplinary team across the Schools of BioSciences, Mathematics & Statistics, and Physics, led by Professor Linda Blackall, Professor Madeleine van Oppen, Dr Elizabeth Hinde, and Dr Douglas Brumley. Work will largely take place in the new “Microbial Symbiosis Laboratory” in the School of BioSciences.

The team will use fluorescence and microfluidic methods to visualise bacterial symbioses with dinoflagellate algae, that normally live inside corals. Studying bacterial movements in a controlled microenvironment will provide more knowledge about an under-researched bacterial symbiosis. This will enable researchers to better understand how to maintain healthy marine ecosystems.

The Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative aims to equip the scientific community with infrastructure such as new genetic tools, cultivation methods, and nanoscale microscopy to improve experimental capabilities in aquatic symbiosis research over the coming decade.

The Initiative’s Symbiosis Model Systems portfolio will build on a growing movement in the life sciences to increase the number of highly tractable systems, like the established models of E. coli, fruit flies, and mice, that play an outsized role in driving our knowledge of biology.

“We are excited to launch these awards to support nearly 200 scientists and their efforts to significantly increase tools and methods in genetics, cultivation, imaging, and additional areas available for aquatic symbiosis model system research,” said Adam Jones, Ph.D., Program Officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

“The supported scientists, selected from a global competition and representing all career stages, will openly and actively share their methods and ideas using the online protocols repository to increase the pace of methods and technology development and limit unnecessary redundancy.”