Researchers unravelling the causes


Aquaculture is worth $35-40 million to the NSW economy and is an important
source of employment and revenue for coastal communities. However,  oyster aquaculture industries are globally
under threat from disease outbreaks
. Oyster diseases have caused devastating
losses for Australian oyster farmers, with a recent outbreak of the OSHV-1
virus causing $6 million worth of losses of Pacific Oysters in Tasmania. Pacific
Oyster mortality events can be caused by a range of different pathogens, but even
in cases where an implicated pathogen has been identified, they often appear to
occur as consequence of a complex and synergistic interplay between
environmental conditions, pathogen abundance and virulence and oyster
physiological state.


try to unravel the causes and dynamics of Pacific Oyster mortality events, a
team of researchers from the
University of Technology Sydney (UTS), led by Professor
Justin Seymour of the Climate Change Cluster (C3) and Associate Professor
Maurizio Labbate of the School of Life Sciences, working in collaboration with
New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), have
established an experiment at SIMS to examine the factors responsible for
Pacific Oyster mortality events. A major focus of this work, which is supported
by the Future Oysters Cooperative Research Centre Project and an Australian Research
Council Linkage Grant, will be elucidating the role of the oyster microbiome –
the community of microbes living in and on the oyster – in oyster disease


In Nov 2017 UTS PhD student William King and
Post-doctoral Research Associate Dr Nachshon Siboni deployed 960 Pacific
Oysters at SIMS, and have since then collected oysters on a weekly basis, for the
characterisation of the oyster microbiome and detection of pathogens, while
also measuring a wide range of environmental parameters such as temperature,
salinity and nutrients. The team plan to unite microbiological measurements,
with environmental data and oyster physiological conditions using sophisticated
modelling approaches, with the ultimate goal of defining the triggers of oyster
mortality events.  This information will
aid management of oyster aquaculture, by delivering a new capacity to predict
the occurrence, provide early warning and decrease the impact of disease
outbreaks on our aquaculture industry.