Professor Gavin Foster

University of Southampton

Gavin was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant in 2020 to study coral reefs which are currently under severe threat from human activity. Coral reefs provide many essential ecosystem functions, from coastal defence to sustaining fisheries. The tool kit corals use to produce minerals, or to ‘biomineralise’, is known but many questions remain, such as, what biomineralisation tools are most important? And how does the environmental sensitivity of coral biomineralisation determine the diversity, resilience, and survivability of individual colonies and the entire reef? Gavin’s project aims to answer these questions.

The project is still in its early days, but Gavin plans to collaborate with industry. His team will be working with a company to use their new mass spectrometer to improve the innovative analytical approach that underpins the project.

When asked about the value of the grant, Gavin said:

"The principal benefit of getting this award has been the buyout of my time. Although the pandemic has made it hard to do anything substantial (especially when my partner and I were home schooling our two primary school aged kids) the 30% of my time allocated to the Microns2Reefs project has given me time to think. For the first time in a long time, I have been directly working with data and writing models to explain them. I have yet to get back into the lab but I hope, with the relaxation of COVID restrictions on the horizon, this will be something that will happen in the near future."