Rachel Levin is a PhD student that studied Symbiodinium and how they get expelled due to global climate change. We discussed our initial project with her, which was the upregulating the amount of FeSOD in the cell and the upregulating the amount of zeaxanthin in Symbiodinium. However, she adviced that working with Symbiodinium might be challenging because there have been no successful transformation protocols established and they take a really long time to culture. Levin mentioned that if we wanted to work with Symbiodinium, we could gear our research into transformation protocols that could work with Symbiodinium or she mentioned that we could work with the model organism that does photosynthesis, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. She further suggested that we work with the genes/parts that she pulled out of Symbiodinium from one of her papers, Engineering Strategies to Decode and Enhance the Genomes of Coral Symbionts (2017). She then suggested we make a universal plasmid for Symbiodinium since one has not been made yet and to characterize the function of FeSOD from clade C.
Madeleine van Oppen
Dr. Madeleine van Oppen focuses on studying coral reef restoration and how to help corals survive future ocean environments through assisted evolution. We discussed with her the implications of our modified project if we were to eventually release it into the ocean. However, she's unsure since no one has stepped into that field, but knows that there are a lot of regulations that we would have to pass before we get to that point of releasing it into the ocean. One regulation that would need to be passed is that the organism will not affect marine life or planet negatively. Regardless, she was still very optimistic about our project and how it could help benefit corals and marine organisms.
Madeleine is a Senior Principal Research Scientist in the "A Healthy and Resilient GBR" Program.
Dr. Grossman focuses his research on identifying new functions associated with photosynthetic processes, the mechanisms of coral bleaching and the impact of temperature and light on the bleaching process in corals. We discussed with him about the important implications of our project if we were to eventually release our modified Symbiodinium into the ocean. He was not as optimistic about our project because even if we were to upregulate SODs, it would only minimally decrease the onset of coral bleaching as there are several other factors involved, such as the recent study that was conducting showing the impact of plastic waste littered in the ocean on corals. In addition, he mentioned that there were many regulations in set for releasing modified organisms into the ocean that we most likely will not be able to get pass. However, he did agree that we need to work on preventing coral bleaching and that our project could be one of the many steps in doing so.
He was elected the co-Chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Photosynthesis in 2015, and will be Chair again in 2017. He also currently serves as Chief of Genetics at Solazyme Inc. which applies plant biology to create oils.