Dr Kirsten Heimann

Associate Professor

Dr Kirsten Heimann

Read More About Me at JCNN

Director of NQAIF; Appointment to the Graduate Faculty, The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, USA;

2001 - 2003 Lecturer B, James Cook University;

1999 - 2001 Adjunct Assistant Professor, The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, USA;

1995 - 1999 Postdoctoral Research Officer, Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology, The University of Queensland;

1994 - 1995 Postdoctoral Research Officer, The University of Melbourne;

1993 - 1994 Postdoctoral Research Officer, Monash University;

1992 - 1993 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne;

1986 - 1988 Research Assistant, Westfälische-Wilhelms-Universität, Münster, Germany.

BSc (Westf Wilh Univ Münster), PhD (University of Cologne).

Member of the: Australasian Society for Phycology and Aquatic Botany (ASPAB), American Society for Phycology (PSA).

Contact Details




+61 7 4781 5795


+61 7 4725 1570



Research Interests

My current and previous research focuses on ecophysiology and cell biology of marine microalgae.

My major areas of research over the last 5 years can be divided into the following research categories: marine microalgal blooms (with special reference to the role of biotic and abiotic factors in harmful algal bloom formation and levels of toxicity); microalgal potential for biotechnology (e.g. biofuel potential, isolation of bioactive compounds, aquaculture feeds); bioluminescence of marine dinoflagellates and the establishment of this endpoint in whole effluent toxicity tests; benthic microalgal community analyses; nutrient physiology with a focus on nutrient utilization of micro- and macroalgae with reference to phytoremediation of nutrients.

Recent and Current Projects Include

  • Toxic microalgae, invasiveness and blooms

  • Microalgal potential for biotechnology

  • Regulation and function of bioluminescence in marine dinoflagellates

  • Ecotoxicology of metals and pesticides using microalgae as test species

  • Seasonal dynamics of tropical marine and freshwater microalgae

  • Nutrient utilization by tropical micro- and macroalgae

Recent and Currently Supervised Projects


  • Marie Magnusson, PhD student

  • Carrie Preite, PhD student

  • Samantha Garrard, PhD student

  • Roger Huerlimann, MAppSc student

  • Arundathi Bopiah, MAppSc student

  • Melanie Wood, MAppSc student

  • Laura Smith, Honours student

  • Kim Palmer, Honours student


  • Leanne Sparrow, MAppSc

‘An investigation of factors affecting growth of Chrysocystis fragilis, a bloom forming chrysophyte on coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef’

  • Melanie Blanchette, MSc

‘The use of esterase activity as a measure of copper toxicity in marine microalgae’

  • Steffi Gottschalk, Hons student

‘Tropical benthic microalgal communities and the effect of regional and seasonal enhanced nutrient levels on their distribution in the Great Barrier Reef’

  • Alana Owen, Hons student

‘The ecological role of dinoflagellate bioluminescence: Testing the possibility of quorum sensing’

  • Tom Coughlin, Hons student

‘Investigation into the uses of biomonitor endpoints for the determination of cadmium and copper toxicity towards the estuarine microalgal, Chroomonas sp.’

  • Jaquelyn Craig nee Jaquelyn Matuszewski, MSc student

'Effect of salinity and pH on the toxicity of copper and SDS using the bioluminescent system of Pyrocystis lunula (dinoflagellate) as a reporter assay'

  • Fiona Graham, Hons student

'The use of tropical macroalgae in phytoremediation of aquaculture effluent'

Future PhD Directions

  • Cell biology of toxin production in phytoplankton, e.g. Do organic nutrients contribute? Who produces the toxins really?

  • Cell biology of phytoplankton signaling, e.g. What leads to phytoplankton blooms? Are blooms the result of community cross talk?

  • Invasive and toxic microalgae, e.g. Developing phytoplankton surrogates to test the efficiency of ballast water treatment plants.

  • Searching for new tropical phytoplankton strains beneficial to the tropical aquaculture industry and potential for biofuel production.

  • Developing phytoplankton-based screening procedures for the biologically active compounds, e.g. A diatom-based screening assay to evaluate the efficiency of natural anti-fouling compounds.

  • Cell biology of bioluminescent systems, e.g. What turns them on or off? Is bioluminescence a good reporter system for water quality?

  • Cell biology of Golgi protein traffic, e.g. What is the nature of the biological glue molecules of diatoms? What makes diatoms stick or move on? Could the diatom glue provide a mean for the bioremediation of metal pollutants?

  • Tropical phytoplankton taxonomy (marine and freshwater).


AG1002 - Biological Principles for Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences

BZ2640 - Marine Plants and Algae in their Environments

BZ1001 - Fundamentals of Biology

Awards, Fellowships and Recognitions

  • 2007 Carrick National Australian Award for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning ‘For developing students’ conceptual understanding, quantitative and generic skills through innovative problem-based teaching and hands-on training in large and diverse foundation Biology classes’

  • 2007 JCU Vice-Chancellor and Faculty of Science, Engineering and IT Award for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning

  • 2003 Invited Keynote Speaker at the 3rd European Phycological Congress, Belfast Ireland

  • 2002 Invited Speaker at the Fluorescence Workshop, Griffith University

  • 2000 Invited Speaker at the Southeastern Phycological Colloquy, Hobscaw Barony, South Carolina, USA

  • 1998 Winner of the Sarstedt Postdoctoral Award at the ANZSCDBI, Adelaide

  • 1991 - 1993 Postdoctoral Fellowship of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

  • 1990 - 1991 Scholarship of the University of Cologne

Selected Publications

Full List of Publications

Kingsford, M.J., Heimann, K., Alexander, C.G., and McKinnon, D. (in review). Chapter 14: Plankton. In: Field Guide to the Great Barrier Reef. Hutchings, P.A., Kingsford, M.J., Hoegh-Guldberg, O. [eds.]

Magnusson, M., Heimann, K., and Negri, A. (in review). Comparative effects of herbicides on photosynthesis and growth of tropical marine microalgae. Under review in Environmental Science & Technology (submission no. MBP-D-08-00008)

Heimann, K., Klerks, P.L., and Hasenstein, K.H. (in review). Involvement of actin and microtubules in the regulation of bioluminescence and the translocation of chloroplasts in the dinoflagellate Pyrocystis lunula. Under review in Botanica Marina special issue “Advances in Algal Cell Biology” (submission no. BOTMAR-2008-03).

Moore, R.B., Obornik, M., Janouškovec, J., Chrudimsky, T., Vancova, M., Green, D.H., Wright, S.W., Davies, N.W., Bolch, C.J.S., Heimann, K., Slapeta, J., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Logsdon, Jr. J.M., and Carter, D. (accepted). A photosynthetic alveolate closely related to apicomplexan parasites. Nature (submission no. 2007-09-09867).

Jin, Q., Scherp, P., Heimann, K., and Hasenstein, K.H. (accepted). Hormones and cytoskeletal organization. International Symposium on “The Plant Cytoskeleton: Genomic and bioinformatics tools for biotechnology and agriculture.” Cell Biology International

Guenther, J., Heimann, K., and deNys, R. 2007. Pedicellariae of the crown-of-thorns sea star are not an effective defence against fouling. Marine Ecology Progress Series 340:101-108

Gottschalk, S., Uthicke, S., and Heimann, K. 2007. Benthic Diatom Community Composition in Three Regions of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Coral Reefs 26:345-357

Schaffelke, B., Heimann, K., Marshall, P. and Ayling, A.M. 2004. Blooms of Chrysocystis fragilis on the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 23:514

Percival, J.M., Hughes, J.A., Brown, D.L., Heimann, K., Stow, J.L. and Gunnings, P.W. (in press). Targeting of a tropomyosin isoform on short, Golgi-associated microfilaments is mediated by an internal alternatively spliced exon. Molecular Biology of the Cell

Invited publications

Heimann, K., Hansen, G. and Roberts, K.R. 2001. Gymnodinium. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences, Nature Publishing Group, www.els.net

Stow, J.L. and Heimann, K. 1998. Vesicle Budding on Golgi Membranes Ð Regulation by G Proteins and Myosin Motors. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1404:161-171

Beech, P.L., Heimann, K. and Melkonian, M. 1991. Development of the Flagellar Apparatus During the Cell Cycle in Unicellular Algae. Protoplasma 164:23-37