Dr. Michelle Achlatis

Coral Reef Ecologist

Carmabi Foundation

Piscaderabaai z/n, Willemstad, Curacao

P.O. 2090

Email: m.achlatis@gmail.com

Education and Degrees

2018:     Ph.D., Coral Reef Ecosystems Lab, University of Queensland, Australia

2013:     M.Sc., Biological Sciences, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2011:     B.Sc.,Biology, University of Crete, Greece

General research interests:

Sponge ecophysiology, sponge bioerosion, photosymbiosis in sponges, nutrient cycling by and within sponge holobionts, coral reef community metabolism.

Research interests on Curaçao:

Some of the most competitive and destructive (to the coral framework) bioeroding sponges form a symbiosis with photosynthetic dinoflagellates. Cynically, the same symbionts that stimulate reef erosion by the sponge also stimulate reef growth when in symbiosis with corals. But surprisingly sponges can do so despite the geochemical incompatibility of photosynthesis (decreases acidity) and erosion (requires high acidity). Not only do the two processes co-occur in photosymbiotic sponges, but in fact light enhances bioerosion rates, and the photosymbionts are crucial to the overall health and excavation capacity of the host. During my PhD, I studied a photosymbiotic bioeroding sponge on the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) and I found that sponge and symbionts are metabolically integrated, and that photosynthesis enhances the bioerosion performance of such sponges. For my next research project I want to explore the physiological mechanism behind these observations, conducting experiments with bioeroding sponges on Curacao.

Recent publications relevant to my research on Curacao:

Achlatis M., Pernice M., Green K., Guagliardo P., Kilburn M.R., Hoegh-Guldberg O., Dove S. (2018). Single-cell measurement of ammonium and bicarbonate uptake within a photosymbiotic bioeroding sponge. The ISME Journal 12: 1308–1318.

Achlatis M., van der Zande R.M., Schönberg C.H.L., Fang J.K.H., Hoegh-Guldberg O., Dove S. (2017). Sponge bioerosion on changing reefs: ocean warming poses physiological constraints to the success of a photosymbiotic excavating sponge. Scientific Reports 7: 10705.

Alexander B. E., Achlatis M., Osinga R., van der Geest H.G., Cleutjens J. P. M., Schutte B. , de Goeij J.M. (2015). Cell kinetics during regeneration in the sponge Halisarca caerulea: how local is the response to tissue damage? PeerJ 3:e820.