How do sponges and bacteria together maintain productivity on coral reefs? (2017–2020)
Integrating invertebrate biology, microbiology, genomics and metabolomics, this project aims to listen in on conversations between a Great Barrier Reef sponge and its bacterial symbionts. Coral reefs thrive in nutrient-poor tropical seas by relying on efficient retention and recycling of essential elements, and marine sponges are proving critically important in this role. They achieve this by cooperating with metabolically diverse bacterial symbionts via mechanisms that are largely unknown. Using the first and most advanced genome-enabled sponge in the world, this project seeks to reveal genomic and metabolic details of the partnership, with potential to inform environmental restoration, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.