Lab News Archive

Betty L graduates with a Distinction July 2013

European Erasmus Mundus marine program Masters student Betty Laglbauer joined the lab for the first half of 2013, to complete a research project on the relationship between sponge health and bacterial symbiosis in Amphimedon queenslandica. It was wonderful to receive the news from Betty that her thesis went very well back in Europe, and indeed that she graduated from the program with a Distinction!  Congratulations Betty, and we wish you all the very best for the next stage of your career. It was certainly a pleasure having you with us.


Jo submits her Masters thesis! June 2013

Right on time, Jo Bayes has submitted her Masters thesis entitled “Characterisation of the microbiome of the demosponge Amphimedon queenslandica reveals host immune responses to changes in the symbiotic bacterial community” for examination.  With no time to wait around for the reviews to come back, Jo has headed back home to the UK to start the next phase of her life.  We all wish you the very best of everything, Jo, for thesis reviews and beyond!


Sponge microbes have nowhere to hide    April 2013

A diverse group of new students in Sandie’s lab hopes to shed more light on interactions between the coral reef sponge Amphimedon and the microbes that live in and around it. To complement international PhD students Ben and Daniel who began just back in January this year, the sponge-microbe team has now been joined by 4th year honours student Tahsha Say, Australian Postgraduate Scholarship awardee (and past honours student) Bec Fieth, and Erasmus Mundus program (Marine Biodiversity and Conservation) European Masters student Betty Laglbauer. Great to have you all on board!


The Degnan Labs have a sparkling new space   February 2013

The much-anticipated move into our brand new lab has finally happened!  Sure, we only moved down the hall, but the purpose-designed molecular lab with dedicated computing and microscopy areas is light-filled and wonderfully functional, and accommodates our large group much more comfortably than the bursting-at-the-seams old space. Huge thanks to UQ and the School of Biological Sciences for making this happen.


UQ Early Career Researcher grant awarded to Yasu  February 2013

A big congratulations to postdoc Nagayasu who has received his first competitive research grant from the University of Queensland to help support his research in the Degnan Lab on sponge development. May this be the first of a great many!


Nobuo submits his PhD thesis! January 2013

After three and a half years of absolute dedication to his PhD research, and a very impressive display of self-discipline during his write-up phase, Nobuo Ueda has submitted his thesis hours ahead of schedule. Nothing left to do now but celebrate hard, get some sleep, and wait for those international thesis reviews to return to our shores...  Nobuo will be forever remembered not only as the best abalone chef we’ve ever had, but also as the sole student to have completed an entire PhD in Lab 310, which we occupied for < 4 years. To us, 310 is now the Nobuo Ueda Memorial Lab.


Congratulations to Ben, back and better than ever  January 2013

From First Class Honours student (see June 2012 News archive) to RA and now to PhD candidate - Ben Yuen is back in a new capacity this month after winning a highly competitive International Postgraduate Scholarship to study for his PhD with Sandie in the area of origin and evolution of animal innate immunity, using interactions between the sponge Amphimedon and its resident bacterial symbionts as a model system.


Welcome to a new international PhD student  January 2013

It’s with pleasure that we welcome new international PhD student Daniel Stoupin, who joins us after completing his Masters research on choanoflagellates in labs in both Germany and Russia. In the Degnan lab, Daniel hopes to use his choanoflagellate culturing skills, combined with his substantial experience in photomicroscopy, to develop Amphimedon sponge cell cultures that will allow us to better study the ways in which sponge cells interact both with each other and with bacterial cells. Welcome Daniel, and good luck from all of us!


Yasu enjoys the SICB conference in USA  January 2013

Postdoc Nagayasu travelled to San Francisco early this month to soak up the huge diversity of science at the annual US Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology conference and to present his poster detailing some of his fascinating cellular-level revelations on “Metamorphosis in the demosponge Amphimedon queenslandica”.


Malacology in Melbourne  December 2012

We were proud to be represented this month by two great talks at the Malacological Society of Australasia triennial conference in Melbourne, Australia. Congratulations to PhD student Felipe Aguilera Muñoz and postdoc Carmel McDougall for receiving great responses to their exciting work on biomineralization in molluscs, from abalone shells to oyster pearls.


Lab Manager change-up  December 2012

With the departure of lab manager Mel Havler to new pastures - so long Mel, and thanks for everything - our amazingly efficient and proficient postdoctoral research assistant Dr Kerry Roper will take on a part-time Lab Manager role to complement her already busy research schedule. This will be especially valuable as we prepare to move into a completely new lab space early in 2013, which Kerry plans to have running like a well-oiled machine before she steps out of lab life for the back half of next year to enjoy her second baby!


First Class all round!  November 2012

Huge smiles all round this month as all three of our 4th year undergraduate students - Rebecca Fieth, Alyssa Budd and Shunsake Sogabe - graduated with high First Class Honours degrees after 10 months of very hard work immersed in their lab-intensive research projects. Its been a pleasure having you all around, and we hope to see you back for more sometime down the track!


Welcome TWO new PhD students  October 2012

We are excited to expand the cultural breadth of our lab with the arrival of two new students from Europe this month, supporting by Bernie’s Laureate Fellowship.  Katia Jindrich joins us from France - after completing a Masters from the University of Lund under the supervision of Dan-Eric Nilsson and Todd Oakley at UC Santa Barbara (USA) - to begin her PhD with Bernie on “The role of the bZip transcription factors in Amphimedon”. Also joining us this month, with a Masters degree from the University of Bologna in Italy that also included research in the lab of Todd Oakley, is Federico Gaiti. Federico will study his PhD with Bernie in the area of genome regulation by long non-coding RNAs in Amphimedon.


Welcome to new Masters student October 2012

In 2011, we thoroughly enjoyed having Reunion Islander Aude Gauthier in the lab as an honours student. Its a thrill now to have Aude return for her Master degree in Bernie’s group, on silicatein gene expression in Amphimedon during embryogenesis and metamorphosis. Welcome back Aude!


Laura Grice - presenter and traveller extraordinaire July - August 2012

PhD student Laura Grice has had a big couple of months. Laura was successful in winning both a UQ Biological Sciences Travel Award and a conference travel grant to attend her very first international conference - the ISDCI in Japan (see below). Laura did the lab extremely proud by getting Runner Up in the Best Student Talk competition!  She then went on the following month to win the People’s Choice runner up in UQ’s School of Biological Sciences Three-minute thesis competition. Way to go, Laura!


Double Degnan Lab presence at the ISDCI July 2012

We are proud to be represented this month by two of our finest at the International Society of Developmental and Comparative Immunology (ISDCI) in Fukuoka, Japan. PhD student Laura Grice will present some of her PhD research on sponge aggregation factors and research assistant Simone Higgie will present work that she completed while an honours student in the lab in 2011, on sponge immunoglobulin genes. Happy travels girls.


Congratulations to our First Class graduates June 2012

Two excellent 4th year undergraduate students in Sandie’s lab have been awarded high level First Class Honours for their mighty efforts over the past year. Ben Yuen has written an outstanding thesis on “Shedding light on photoprotein-like genes in the demosponge Amphimedon queenslandica, and will stay on in the lab as a Research Assistant until the end of the year. Jake Goodall’s intriguing project revealed how GPCR gene expression can help us to better understand larval competency in the sponge Amphimedon. Jake continues his stellar start to a scientific career by securing a research position with CSIRO Marine - congratulations Jake.


When octocorals go deep  April 2012

Jaret Bilewitch was able to present his PhD research at the 5th International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals held in Amsterdam earlier this month, thanks to generous support from a UQ Biological Sciences Travel Award and a conference student travel award.  Well done Jaret!


Extraordinary honour for Bernie Degnan  March 2012

Our very own Professor Bernie Degnan recently was awarded Australia’s most prestigious fellowship - a 5 year Laureate Fellowship - for his contributions to research and mentoring of young scientists. The fellowship will allow him to focus on investigating the fundamental genomic rules that govern formation and function of cells and tissues in all animals. This is a huge honour indeed, and we are all very proud!


Aussie welcome to a Californian  March 2012

It is with great pleasure that we welcome undergraduate student Darae Jun to spend a few months in Sandie’s lab during her exchange studies from the University of California San Diego. Amidst an intense study program that includes several wonderful trips to iconic Queensland habitats, Darae is managing to find time to learn some new molecular lab techniques while she explores circadian gene expression in Amphimedon larvae. Go Darae!!


Great Barrier Reef Invertebrates - new website goes live  Feb 2012

Third year undergrad students in the 2011 class of Marine Invertebrates were the first to contribute to a new website dedicated to documenting the dazzling diversity of invertebrates living on Heron Reef. They did a great job, making this resource both enjoyable and very informative!


New Labsters for the new year  Feb 2012

We welcome several new people into the Degnan lab early in 2012. Dr Kerry Roper joins us as a senior research assistant, bringing a wealth of experience from postdoctoral studies at Stanford University, California where she was lucky enough to spend a lot of time at Hopkins Marine Lab. Simone Higgie comes back to join us as an RA focussing on bioinformatic analysis of lateral gene transfer into the Amphimedon genome, after an extremely successful honours year in 2011 that saw her finish top of the cohort. Three new 4th year students - Rebecca Fieth, Alyssa Budd and Shunsake Sogabe - have just begun their own honours year journey with us, and we hope they’ll thoroughly enjoy their immersion into the life of the research scientist.


Nobuo features at the SICB conference in USA  Jan 2012

Nobuo Ueda was excited to receive a UQ Biological Sciences Travel Award to present his PhD research at the Jan 2012 Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology meeting in South Carolina, USA.  Nice work!


Welcome to Amir   Dec 2011

It’s with pleasure that we welcome into the lab Amir Mohammadi, direct from the Australian National University where he has just completed his PhD on olfactory receptor gene family evolution in mammals, with Prof Jenny Marshall-Graves. Amir will bring his unique suite of chromosome and genome analyses experience to our lab as a full-time postdoctoral research assistant.


Welcome to new postdoc Nagayasu Nov 2011

We are thrilled to have Nagayasu Nakashani joining us from SARS Centre for Marine Molecular Biology in Bergen, Norway, where he has been undertaking postdoctoral research on sea anemone nervous systems in the Rentzsch Lab for the past two years. Prior to SARS, Nagayasu completed his PhD with David Jacobs at UCLA. Yasu, as he has quickly become known, is already in demand around the lab for his technical prowess and we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.


Jo Bayes - presenter extraordinaire!  August 2011

PhD student Jo Bayes is on a winning streak, after honing her oral presentation skills in preparation for the UQ Three-minute thesis competition.  Jo emerged victorious from the School of Biological Sciences competition, taking out both the judges and the people’s choice first prizes. With the new-found confidence that comes from competing in the 3MT, Jo then went on to take out a “Best Talk” prize at the Australian Coral Society annual conference just days later. Congratulations Jo!


BIOMIN2011  July 2011

We had great representation this month at the 11th International Symposium on Biomineralization, very conveniently held in the nearby beautiful beachside town of Noosa, Australia. PhD student Felipe Aguilera Muñoz and postdoc Carmel McDougall both presented their exciting work on biomineralization in molluscs, from abalone shells to oyster pearls, and were very well received!


A new ARC Linkage grant brings tropical rock lobsters to the lab   June 2011

Thanks to her fine collaborators - Dr Jenny Seddon (UQ School of Vet Science) and Dr Jenny Ovenden (Qld Dept of Employment, Economic Development & Innovation) - Sandie Degnan is part of an excited team who have just been awarded a three-year Linkage grant from the Australian Research Council.  The team will work with the North Queensland DEET aquaculture facility to apply genomic tools to improve the culture of tropical rock lobster - a highly prized dish - and remove pressure on wild-caught stocks.


Congratulations to new PhD student Felicity  May 2011

Felicity Masters joined the lab this month after securing  a highly sought-after Australian Postgraduate Award. to work under the supervision of Sandie Degnan on the molecular ecology of larval dispersal and settlement in the sponge Amphimedon queenslandica. Felicity was awarded a first class honours for her excellent work reconstructing the phylogeny of the Australasian pectinid bivalves, which she completed at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Welcome on board, Felicity!


Welcome to new PhD student Jabin  April 2011

It is with great pleasure that we welcome Jabin Watson into the lab as a new PhD student.  Jabin has won a prestigious Australian Postgraduate Award, a federal government scholarship that will support him for three years to study bioactive compounds produced by the sponge Amphimedon queenslandica, under the supervision of Bernie Degnan.  Jabin also has extensive skills and experience as an aquarist, and has been truly invaluable in the construction and maintenance of our rooftop saltwater aquarium system, so he will be an asset to the lab in more ways than one!  Jabin’s not quite ready to reveal his face to the world...


Zandy is now Dr Kranz  April 2011

Congratulations to Alexandrea Kranz, who was awarded her PhD in April 2011.  Zandy has been a PhD student and CSIRO scholar working for the past 3.5 years in Sandie’s lab on genes regulating sexual development and differentiation in tropical abalone. Enjoy this major achievement, Zandy!!


Thankyou to the Goodman Foundation  February 2011

Sandie Degnan and the rest of the lab are very grateful to the Goodman Foundation for their generous financial support of our research on Moreton Bay marine animals. We will use the funds towards our work on the solitary ascidian Herdmania momus, a native of coral reefs yet also a recognised biofouling pest species in Hawaii and the Mediterranean Sea.  Working with a population of H. momus that has colonised boat harbours on North Stradbroke Island, we are addressing larval settlement mechanisms as a means to find benign ways to manage the fouling of built structures in Moreton Bay and beyond.


First Life finally shows in Australia, featuring Bernie and the sponge!   February 2011

Sir David Attenborough’s brilliant final series, First Life, has already been broadcast elsewhere in the world. On Feb 27th, it makes its first appearance here in Australia, on ABC TV. We’re excited to see a feature appearance from both the sponge Amphimedon queenslandica, and Bernie Degnan himself, in Episode One.


New equipment is on the way  February 2011

In collaboration with our colleagues Assoc Prof Andrew Barnes and Dr Sassan Asgari, the Degnan lab is the excited recipient of a 2011 UQ Major Equipment and Infrastructure grant. The new equipment - including an inverted microscope and a tissue culture suite - will allow us to address questions spanning developmental, cell and evolutionary biology, ecology, parasitology and animal health. We expect these new tools to reveal a level of resolution in molecular and cellular functionality not previously accessible in our laboratories, and are grateful to The University of Queensland for their generous support.


Visit from the Squidman  January 2011

The Degnan lab extends a very warm welcome to Dr Tim Wollesen, recent PhD graduate from the lab of Andi Wanninger (then at the University of Copenhagen), who is visiting for 5 months. While he is soaking up the sun in Brisbane, Tim will continue his studies on the nervous system development of the pygmy squid, and use his considerable talents to further our work on reproductive development on the tropical abalone.


Lab trades freshwater for salt   January 2011

While Brisbane and surrounds, including the University of Queensland campus, was drowning under a deluge of freshwater, most of the Degnan Lab were immersed in water of another kind, engaged in field work on the southern Great Barrier Reef in near-perfect weather. It was a highly successful field trip for us, in stark contrast to the horrors that thousands were facing back on the mainland.


Welcome to Felipe   December 2010

We are thrilled to welcome to Felipe Aguilera Muñoz, who recently arrived in Brisbane to begin his PhD with Bernie on biomineralisation in the pearl oyster. Felipe comes to us from Chile, where he has been awarded a CONICYT Bicentennial Becas-Chile Scholarship to support 4 years of postgraduate study in Australia. Felipe brings extensive skills in molecular biology and molluscan aquaculture, AND a talent for making excellent margharitas, so he’s quickly settling very well into the lab!


ARC Discovery grant awarded to the lab   October 2010

Sandie Degnan lucks it in with the awarding of a three year grant from the Australian Research Council on “Larval dispersal and settlement mechanisms in the first genome-enabled Australian marine animal, Amphimedon queenslandica (Porifera)”.  The oceans teem with millions of microscopic animals. Many of these are the larvae of well-known creatures that cannot move much, if at all, as adults. These planktonic larvae are swept around by tides and currents until they are old enough to settle onto the seafloor and metamorphose into the adult form. Within a species, larvae individually vary in the age at which they settle, and in their choice of settlement site. Theory tells us that this variation is crucial to the genetic structure and evolutionary trajectory of marine populations, but empirically we know almost nothing about it. This project combines settlement ecology with genomics, to reveal how variation in genes gives sponge larvae their idiosyncratic dispersal behaviours.


The Sponge genome paper is out!!   August 2010

Many years of squeezing genome data out of the Great Barrier Reef sponge Amphimedon queenslandica has finally come to fruition, with the publication in Nature this week of the full genome paper.  This is the culmination of a very rewarding collaboration between the fantastic genomicists of JGI - especially Dan Rhoksar and Mansi Srivastava who coordinated a mammoth effort at their end - and a handful of fantastic PhD students in Bernie Degnan’s lab at our end. Our thanks and congratulations especially to Bryony Fahey, Maely Gauthier and Gemma Richards for giving everything you had, and then more, to this very significant project.


World Congress of Malacology in Thailand  July 2010

Both Sandie and Bernie Degnan were invited speakers at the hugely successful World Congress of Malacology held this year in Phuket, Thailand. Sandie also co-organised a symposium, with Monica Medina and Sam Loker, on “Emerging Molluscan Models”, that brought together a fantastic group of speakers on diverse molluscan systems and a very enthusiastic audience. Between the excellent conference, the awesome Thai food and hospitality, and the many opportunities to catchup with a great group of molluscan biologists from all corners of the world, a huge amount of fun was had by all!  Already looking forward to the next WCM in The Azores!


Nobuo survives MBL Embryology  July 2010

PhD student Nobuo Ueda has returned full of excitement, enthusiasm and great ideas from the Woods Hole Marine Biological Lab Embryology course of 2010. The six-week course was challenging and at times exhausting, but Nobuo has brought back many new skills, some great tips for the lab, new friendships, countless fantastic memories, and of course a couple of irreplaceable T-shirts. Happy future schtaining, Nobuo!