Professor Bill Leggat is on a mission to understand – and reverse – damage to coral reefs
Bill Leggat spent many happy childhood trips visiting Coffs Harbour on
the NSW mid-north coast, snorkelling and marvelling at the marine animals. “It made me fall in love with our oceans, which was what inspired me to study marine biology,” says Bill, who’s now an Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle.
During his uni studies, Bill decided to gain extra skills to really stand out in his huge cohort, so he began to explore biochemistry and molecular biology. This meant examining how marine systems work, from the tiniest cells to the whole ecosystem. “It’s about linking those systems,” says Bill. He studied giant clams and coral during his Honours year and PhD and now he’s leading research into the impacts of global warming on reefs.
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Recently, Bill and a team of Aussie researchers found that marine heatwaves pose a much greater threat to corals than previously thought. As well as coral bleaching, the heatwaves cause bioerosion of coral skeletons, which results in mass coral mortality.
“It’s a huge challenge to see the ecosystems that I love become more and more degraded,” he says.
Bill’s major goal for his team’s research is to heal our reefs.
“We want to help make decisions to allow corals to overcome anthropogenic [human-caused] stresses and see how we can restore impacted sites.”
Bill’s career path:
- Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Marine Biology), James Cook University
- PhD (Marine Biology), James Cook University
- Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Queensland
- Lecturer, James Cook University
- Associate Professor, James Cook University
- Associate Professor, Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle
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This article is brought to you in partnership with the University of Newcastle
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Author: Larissa Fedunik-Hofman
Larissa is the editorial assistant for Careers with STEM and a Chemistry PhD student. Larissa’s goal is to promote public engagement with STEM through inspiring stories.