[Australia] The potential of ground-breaking research into the effects of bacteria and temperature on seaweed has seen an Edith Cowan University PhD student named one of two recipients of the 2018 Australian Academy of Science Max Day Environmental Science Fellowship Award.
Charlie Phelps studies marine microbes and seaweed and will use the $20,000 prize to begin a world-first study of the impact of bad bacteria and rising ocean temperatures on whole seaweed.
She said seaweed plays a vital role on Australia’s temperate reefs, providing protection and a source of food for many species of fish, as well as producing oxygen and aiding the distribution of nutrients throughout the ocean.
Phelps’ research will test how susceptible kelp beds are to bad bacteria and sea urchins as the temperature of the water rises, and to what extent this bacteria is responsible for bleaching events.
“We’re trying to establish what may potentially happen due to the effects of climate change,” she said.
Phelps said Australian authorities can only do so much in the face of a global problem like climate change but a study like this is invaluable in informing governments about what’s at stake.
“This research will help inform how the kelp may respond to future heatwave scenarios and other factors, such as the impacts of a tropical herbivore species that could potentially over eat the temperate kelp,” she said.
It might surprise people to know Phelps hasn’t had to travel to exotic destinations to study reef ecosystems, there’s a great example just metres from the Hillarys Boat Harbour sea wall — the Marmion Marine Park.
Phelps said the marine park contained extensive kelp beds and a diverse range of species that relied on them.
The scientist intends to begin her research this summer and hopes to have it finished by mid-2019.
Photo: ECY phd student Charlie Phelps won the Australian Academy of Science Max Day Environmental Science Fellowship Award.Picture: Supplied
View original article at: Edith Cowan University seaweed scientist wins $20K for world-first study