KATHERINA PETROU
Algal physiology in a changing world
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Heron Island, Australia.
Microscopy image of Antarctic diatom Eucampia antarctica
Acropora millepora and Stylophora pistillata, Heron Island.
On the ice, east Antarctica (2014, photo credit Stuart Shaw).
Mouse over for a short description of each image.
A short introduction...
I am a senior lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) where I head the Marine Microphycology Laboratory. Coupling cell physiology, photobiology and biochemistry, my research investigates cellular processes, biochemical and biomolecular shifts in microalgae in response to environmental change and aims to link phenotypic traits and responses with ecology and ecosystem resilience. In my research, I bring together micro- and macro-scale biology and ecology, taking a fine scale-approach including single-cell and sub-cellular analyses to target questions on broad scale ecological consequences of environmental change. To achieve this, I primarily employ manipulative experimental approaches, often combining an array of techniques including fluorometers and oxygen optodes to assess photomechanistic effects, FTIR microspectroscopy, confocal fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry to assess biochemical and macromolecular compositional changes at the single cell and community level, as well as gas chromatography to measure production and consumption of metabolic compounds such as DMSP and DMS.

In both laboratory and field settings, I have successfully investigated physiological responses to environmental perturbations in a broad range of organisms, ranging from Antarctic sea-ice algae, Southern Ocean and coastal phytoplankton communities and diatom isolates, to tropical seagrasses, marine cyanobacterial mats, symbiont bearing foraminifera and tropical corals. Ultimately, using my expertise in phytoplankton ecophysiology, photobiology and ecology, I aim to understand the roles of phytoplankton functional groups in biogeochemical cycling and lower trophic interactions and dynamics.
In the Marine Microphycology Lab our research aims to answer how diatoms will respond to a high CO2 ocean, how microalgal nutritional value is influenced by environmental change and how biogenic sulfur compounds influence microalgal physiology and lower trophic interactions in the marine environment.

Selected media
Article:
watershedsentinel.ca
"The uncertain fate of Earth's other 'lung'"
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Article:
theconversation.com
"Acid oceans are shrinking plankton, fuelling faster climate change"
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Article:
sciencenews.org
"Ocean acidification could weaken diatoms’ glass houses"
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Live podcast:
In Situ Science
"Life vs Science"
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Television:
ABC 7:30 Report
"Scientist hoping microbes are key to fighting global warming"