Abstract: The early development of the hard coral Acropora millepora has been described at both the morphological and molecular levels, and comparative studies are under way for other Scleractinia. Complementary data on Octocoral embryogenesis are however essential for a broader understanding of the different developmental strategies in Cnidaria and their evolution. Although the morphology of soft coral embryogenesis has been previously described, data are scarce and molecular data complementing the morphology are missing. My PhD involves the investigation of reproduction and early development in soft corals, using Lobophytum pauciflorumas model. As the majority of soft corals, L. pauciflorum colonies are either female or male. The time of reproduction coincides with the annual synchronised mass spawning event of hard corals on the GBR. The process of gametogenesis is longer in the gonochoric soft coral than in the hermaphrodite A. millepora. Further early development in L. pauciflorum appears to be slower than in A. millepora. Key genes and their expression patterns during embryogenesis however are similar.
Bio: Wiebke was born and raised in Hannover, Germany. Very early she decided that she wanted to work as a marine biologist. For her undergraduate studies, Wiebke therefore studied Biology with a focus on Marine Biology in Bremen. After graduating from the University of Bremen, Wiebke took the chance to complete the first year of her Master Studies in Marine Biology at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao. After finishing her Master’s degree, Wiebke came to Australia to work as volunteer on coral spawning. Being in the field and observing the corals spawn, laid the ground work for her persuit of a PhD degree looking at coral development. In 2012 Wiebke started her PhD under the supervision of Prof. David Miller focussing on soft coral developement. Since then she has been working on the establishment of the soft coral Lobophytum pauciflorum as a model for soft coral developmental studies. Her research allowed Wiebke to compare reproductive and developmental strategies in hard and soft corals. Further her work links morphological characteristics to molecular properties in soft coral development.