Dr Kathryn Hall

Kathryn started working at the Queensland Museum in 2008 on an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation funded project to deliver 20,000 samples of sponges and soft corals to labs in Germany for DNA barcoding.  As part of that work, Kathryn was also responsible for providing up-to-date morphological descriptions of the specimens that were being sent from the QM collection.  Many of the sponges and soft corals have not yet been formally described as species, and building on the work of Dr John Hooper and colleagues, Kathryn developed a database to manage the many informal descriptions (called mudmaps) which museum scientists use to identify the sponges and soft corals.  In 2012, Kathryn and John launched a website, SpongeMaps, which makes published descriptions of sponges available to the public and unpublished data available to other researchers in the sponge taxonomy community.

 Kathryn has continued to work in sponge taxonomy, using DNA data and morphological studies to inform her process.  Her work is funded by the ABRS.  Currently, she is working on the taxonomy of a group of sponges, called Tetillidae, which are spherical and live in the sediments - they are often called golf-ball sponges because of their pitted surfaces and ball-like shapes.  Golf-ball sponges are a particularly good group of sponges to focus on because they have been found to contain tumour-suppressing compounds.  Also, some golf-ball sponges in India have been found to regulate their rates of reproduction in response to changes in sea temperature.  This means that by watching sponges, we may be able to learn how sea temperature fluctuations affect the capacities of animals to cope with changes in the environment.  Kathryn's research, though, is looking at the interrelationships of species of sponges, which she determines using their DNA sequences, and interpreting how the skeletons of these sponges have changed over time.  Using this information, Kathryn is able to identify levels of variation within species, which enables her to draw precise boundaries around individual species.

Section

Sponges

Position

Research Officer - Biodiversity (Sessile Marine Invertebrates)

Qualifications

BSc (UQ)

BSc (Hons I) (UQ)

PGCertSciComm (CQU)

PhD (UQ)

Contact

Email: kathryn.hall@qm.qld.gov.au

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