Tracy is originally from the North Coast of New South Wales. She completed a BSc in Marine Biology/Aquaculture in 1996 and MSc in Marine Microbiology/Immunology in 2001, both at James Cook University. After working at the University of Queensland for several years she completed a PhD in 2007 at the Center for Marine Studies. Her PhD research investigated the histopathology and microbial ecology of stress and disease in reef corals. Tracy’s broad research interests include stress responses, cell biology, immunity and disease of marine invertebrates. Tracy was awarded with a ARC Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2008-2010) at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University. Her current research focuses on investigating the cellular and molecular response’s of corals to environmental stressors as a means to better understand the impact of climate change and disease in reef ecosystems.
It is now widely recognised that multi-partite and symbiotic interactions expand the capacity of an individual to exist within its environment. The symbioses of reef building corals include the well-characterised endosymbiotic, photosynthetic, dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium sp.), but also a diverse community of prokaryotes (Bacteria and Archaea). The morphology of the coral host colony itself represents a complex structure of distinct microbial habitats where diverse functional groups exist within dynamic environmental conditions. Although recent studies have given insights into the significance of the microbial biodiversity of the coral holobiont, we are yet to understand the micro-scale community structure, stability or the specific functional contribution of this microbial community to the host corals. Nor we do not know what role host-microbe interactions play in the capacity of the host to and acclimate to environmental stressors. Here I will review the significance of host-microbe biology and discuss my recent research investigating host-microbe-environment interactions of reef building corals.