Abstract: Coral reefs are threatened by diverse anthropogenic challenges, including increases in atmospheric CO2 levels, higher seawater temperatures, overfishing and pollution, the net results of which are widespread decreases in coral cover and increases in the frequency and severity of coral bleaching events. A number of studies suggest that anthropogenic stressors contribute to a decline in the overall fitness of corals, one result of which is decreases in reproductive output. Whilst a considerable amount is known about coral reproduction at the whole organism level, next to nothing is known about the underlying molecular mechanisms, which limits our ability to understand the impacts of stressors on reproductive parameters. Despite their evolutionary basal position, stony corals exhibit a large variety of reproductive traits (at the individual and the population level), which are slowly getting deciphered. The purpose of this study is to determine the molecular bases of sex determination, differentiation and allocation in scleractinians, concentrating on representatives of the family Fungiidae that exhibit the fascinating phenomenon of sex change (sequential hermaphrodite) and on A. millepora (simultaneous hermaphrodite), a genetically well characterised scleractinian model. In this seminar, I will present the current findings for the two approaches, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of each system, and address further directions of the project.
Biography: Susanne is originally from Germany, where she obtained a Master degree in Genetics and Zoology from the Technical University of Munich. Her Master thesis looked at the regulation and changes of spawning hormones in giant tiger prawns, Penaeus monodon, under the supervision of Dr K. Wilson at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences. Returning back to Germany she started her PhD at the Helmholtz Centre Munich at the group of Dr L. Bally-Cuif during which she used molecular and genetic methods to understand influence of telomerase and the length of telomeres in the stem cell maintenance of zebrafish, Danio rerio. She was particularly interested in understanding the abundance of stem cell domains within the zebrafish brain compared to mammalian brains. In 2009 she received her PhD degree from the Technical University of Munich and returned to Australia. In 2010, she joined the the coral genomics group of Prof D. Miller as a postdoctoral fellow for a 3-year period to study the differential expression of genes underlying the sex determination and reversal in coral with main interest in Fungidae.