Iconic fashion house, Zimmermann, in partnership with SIMS will fund world leading research on coral nutrition to mitigate bleaching events in Sydney corals, led by Biodiversity Fellowship recipient Dr. Jen Matthews from The University of Technology Sydney (UTS). 

It’s no secret that corals are declining globally as a result of climate change, with the rate of catastrophic bleaching events rising at an alarming rate. Healthy reefs support over 7,000 marine species, provide billions of dollars of economic benefit world-wide, protect coastlines and may provide new medicines in the future. 

With record heat events and a likely El Niño – Southern Oscillation during the Austral summer, Sydney corals are under significantly increased threat. Forecasts of possible future ocean conditions suggest it is unlikely that native Sydney encrusting corals (e.g., Plesiastrea versipora) will survive.  

Plesiastrea versipora
John Sear via iNaturalist (CC BY-NC 4.0)

UTS’ Dr. Jen Matthews has a long history of coral research and conservation, and in this new chapter is researching interventions to optimise coral nutrition using lipid (fat) enriched food to enhance their natural resilience to thermal stress and boost the growth rate of the surviving corals. 

In this world-first research Dr. Matthews will biopsy native Sydney corals and use a combination of DNA genotyping and lipidomics to determine the optimal nutritional basis for stress tolerance. Dr. Matthews will optimise the content and delivery of a nutritional supplement for corals from coral feeding experiments run in SIMS” Ian Potter Research Aquarium. In her experiments she will monitor and measure the rate of coral growth under different diet and nutritional intake and also various temperature controls.  

Sydney Harbour could act as refuge for tropical and sub-tropical species under a changing environment, and this project will help us predict how Sydney’s corals might cope with future projected conditions, initiate protection methods in areas with more vulnerable colonies, and thus enhance our capacity to manage and conserve Sydney’s valuable marine ecosystems. 

This critical work is only able to be carried out by the generous financial support of Zimmermann over the next 3 years and will contribute to their corporate goals of investment into environmentally related programs of research.