Marine biologist nets senior scientist award

Head of the School of Biological Sciences, Dr Simon Davy, has been awarded $10,000 as recipient of the 2015 Charles Fleming Senior Scientist Award.

Granted annually by the Royal Society of New Zealand, the award supports the research of a senior scientist at a university, Crown Research Institute, polytechnic or other research organisation in New Zealand. 

The funding will see Dr Davy travel to the Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis in France in January 2016 to conduct research on the partnership between corals and the symbiotic microalgae that live in their cells. 

“Coral reefs are in serious decline; with more than 20 percent of the world’s reefs so degraded they can no longer support fisheries and tourism. 

“We know that coral reefs are unable to grow or survive without this partnership.  However we know little about the cellular mechanisms of coral bleaching—a result of global warming—or how corals recover, or their capacity to adapt to warming seas,” says Dr Davy.

Dr Davy’s research will look at how corals recognise their symbiotic algae and form a partnership, or ‘symbiosis’, for instance when they re-establish the symbiosis after a bleaching event. He’ll be investigating a certain type of protein, Niemann-Pick type C, which may play an important role in this inter-partner recognition.

“This research will hopefully build our knowledge on the link between environmental change and coral reef function, and ultimately shape the strategies that safeguard reefs.”

Dr Davy will be hosted for six months by Professor Paola Furla, as well as researchers at the nearby Centre Scientifique de Monaco, one of the world’s leading coral reef research facilities.

“Professor Furla’s research is closely aligned with mine, though we have never worked together before. This collaboration represents a valuable opportunity to further our understanding of the coral-algal symbiosis at a quicker pace.”

For more information on Dr Davy’s research on corals and climate, see YouTube.