Melanie Sun
PhD Candidate
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 3447

Room 570, D26 Building
UNSW, Kensington 2052

Developing ecogenomic signatures for estuarine sediment health assessment: Linking benthic community shifts to the effects of anthropogenic contaminants 

Coastal and estuarine systems are amongst the most productive and diverse ecosystems in the world. These environments also support more than 85% of Australia’s population subjecting them to immense pressure from rapid urbanisation, expanding industry and shipping. A continuous supply of chemical contaminants enter estuarine systems where they accumulate at significant concentrations in the sediments.

My research investigates the effects of anthropogenic contaminants on benthic microbial communities using cutting-edge molecular technologies including community fingerprinting, tag sequencing, metagenomic and metatranscriptomic approaches. The initial stages of my PhD involved surveying the diversity of microbes found in sediments of eight NSW estuaries. We compared contaminated with reference estuaries and found clear structural differences that reflect the degree of sediment contamination. I am now working to determine how such structural changes relate to the metabolic capacity of microbial communities and in turn, estuarine ecosystem function.

See also


Professor Emma Johnston

Dr Katherine Dafforn


Dr Mark Brown (BABS)

Dr Anthony Chariton (CSIRO)



Sun, M. Y., Dafforn, K. A., Johnston, E. L., & Brown, M. V. (2013). Core sediment bacteria drive community response to anthropogenic contamination over multiple environmental gradients. Environmental microbiology, 15(9), 2517-2531.

Sun, M. Y., Dafforn, K. A., Brown, M. V., & Johnston, E. L. (2012). Bacterial communities are sensitive indicators of contaminant stress. Marine Pollution Bulletin64(5), 1029-1038.