Dr. Shannon Klein is an Australian postdoctoral fellow in the KAUST Red Sea Research Center (RSRC) whose research focus investigates the impacts of climate change and other anthropogenic stressors on non-calcifying coral reef cnidarians, including anemones and jellyfish. More specifically, Klein’s research aims to explore how the productivity and photo-physiology of endosymbionts that form symbioses with cnidarians are affected by changing ocean conditions.
“The goal of my current research is to understand the impacts of global change on cnidarian symbioses. This is a group of animals that include corals, anemones and jellyfish that form symbioses with micro-algae that give them color,” she noted. “And then more broadly I also work on open-ocean syndromes caused primarily by climate change. My areas of interest include syndromes including ocean deoxygenation and ocean acidification, and how these drivers impact marine animals.
“My job more specifically looks at the impacts of global change, whether that is climate change or pollution, etc., and how these changes affect biota in the Red Sea. My colleagues and I then apply our research findings to other parts of the world. I believe that the research we carry out daily can be of a benefit to Saudi Arabia and other nations.”
Klein joined KAUST in May 2017 after obtaining her Ph.D. in marine biology, ecophysiology and climate change from Griffith University, Australia. Having grown up in Australia’s east coast region, she has long held an affinity for marine ecosystems and the megafauna that inhabit them.
“I think when I was three my grandfather taught me how to snorkel. My grandfather and I would spend hours in tide pools feeding anemones, and I think from a very young age I always had a passion for the marine environment. I recall being obsessed with these tiny little shells that we would collect from these pools, and that obsession with marine life has remained with me until this day,” she said.
Klein expresses that the lure of multidisciplinary work and the ability to collaborate with people from different backgrounds was one of the deciding factors in choosing KAUST for her postdoctoral research.
“While completing my studies in Australia I was aware of KAUST, and so I contacted Professor Carlos Duarte, who is now my supervisor, about possible available positions in his lab. I have been here now for 18 months, and the transition from my previous institution to KAUST was easy thanks, in part, to KAUST being such a fantastic research institution and the support of my supervisor and colleagues. I came from a university that did not have the resources that KAUST does.”
Klein admits that the goal of answering scientific questions that have yet to be answered is the prime motivational factor for carrying out her daily research at the University. Moving forward, the continued ability to experience research at such a high standard within the RSRC emboldens Klein in her overarching goal to attempt to answer future coastal environment-related predictions.
“In the future, we will hopefully have one of the most extensive data sets that we know of regarding assessing the impact of global and climate change on cnidarians, including corals from the Red Sea. We are hoping to provide some insight into how corals will respond to climate change.
“As part of the Tarek Ahmed Juffali Research Chair in Red Sea Ecology research group, I feel that our research will be of great interest to Saudi Arabia given the eco-tourism drive that the country is currently pursuing. Any future eco-tourism projects in the Kingdom will be dependent on healthy coastal ecosystems, including coral reefs, in the Red Sea,” Klein emphasized.