Genetic and physiological adaptations in Sydney Rock Oysters with prolonged exposure to contaminants

In Sydney Harbour, urban and industrial runoff has resulted in prolonged environmental stress to aquatic species, through inputs of toxic contaminants and altered water quality conditions.

Significant changes in the activity of numerous genes have been identified in Sydney rock oysters responding to contaminants and other environmental stressors. However, we still do not know whether these changes are due to inherited genetic adaptations or short-term transient responses to environmental stress. Making this distinction will help to predict the fate of iconic species, such as Sydney rock oysters, in Sydney Harbour.

In this research project, gene and protein expression will be compared in wild oysters with and without long-term exposure to contaminants. This work will identify the genes and proteins associated with heritable responses to environmental stress. Based on the outcomes of these analyses, laboratory experiments will be used to test if the key biological systems that are affected can explain oyster resilience to the long term effects of pollution. This detailed information on oyster physiology will be essential to develop strategies to conserve their future populations.

This research project, led by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science 2012 Thyne Reid Doctoral Fellow, Aroon Melwani of Macquarie University, extends an ongoing collaboration between scientists at Macquarie University, the University of Sydney, the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. 

Please find below link of an interview with Aroon Melwani on his PhD research –