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Matt Miller


Job title and place of work

Lipid Chemist, Cawthron Institute, Nelson.

What is your role in the CARIM project? What work package are you contributing to?

I am working with Cliff Law from NIWA looking at changes in microbial communities under ocean acidification challenge (RA3).

What do you do on an average work day?

I spend most my time understanding how lipids are produced. Lipid (or fats and oils as they are more commonly known) play vital roles in cell and animal function. We now know the importance of omega-3 oils for human health, which originate from the marine microorganisms. However, there is a whole variety of interesting lipids out there, some of which have very important human health properties.

Why is studying coastal acidification important?

Costal acidification is a massive change to the marine environment and will have ramifications throughout the food web on a macro- and micro- level. Understanding the effect acidification has on lipid production in the oil factories (the marine microalgae) in the ocean could predict or help us understand how the microbiological communities will adapt to this challenging environmental change. Changes at a microalgae level may have huge ramifications further up the food web.

What study did you do at high school? And after high school?

Just the usual, Chemistry, Physics, Maths (x3) English, Cricket, Aussie rules footy and girls (very awkwardly and with very little success)

After School, I studied at Melbourne University in the Chemistry department with a honours in Natural products chemistry. My introduction to oils was looking a microalgae from Antarctica looking at oil profiles of different species trying to understand food web ecology.  I did my PhD in Tasmania at UTAS and CSIRO looking at alternative oils for salmon Aquaculture. 

What outcomes from CARIM do you think there will be?

This fundamental understanding of the mechanisms of significant change in the marine environment with prepare NZ, and the world, for some real challenges in the not so distant future. 

What excites you about working on this project?

This is what you do science for, trying to answer big questions, Trying to predict things that cannot be easily predicted. Trying to understand things on a chemical level which will have implications on biology, the marine environment and how we feed ourselves in the future. These difficult science challenges is why I studied chemistry at university and hopefully contribute to the greater understanding for an uncertain future in regards to the marine environment and all its pressures.