Tingting Xiang's Abstract

The marine dinoflagellate alga Symbiodinium forms a symbiotic relationship between a variety of marine animals, most notably coral. They provide coral with photosynthetically fixed carbon while the coral supplies Symbiodinium with inorganic nutrients and a haven from predation. However, this symbiotic relationship is particularly susceptible to environmental perturbations, such as heat and ocean acidification. The break-down of this relationship, or ‘coral bleaching’ can ultimately lead to coral death and destruction of the reef ecosystem.

Although coral bleaching has been studied extensively at the ecological level, we know very little about the mechanisms governing the establishment, maintenance and breakdown of the coral-dinoflagellate interaction.

Currently we are focusing on establishing the genetic tools (including CRISPR-based genome editing tools) for dinoflagellate alga Symbiodinium, and establishing the genetic system would allow us to understand the fundamental aspects of algal biology and thus greatly enhance our knowledge of algal-coral symbiosis.

It is a great opportunity to gain experience in molecular biology, genome editing, and genetics and so on. It is also a wonderful opportunity to work on coral symbiosis in a lab model system.