Using the potential of native microbes to increase the resilience of coral outplants in the FL Keys

Partnering with scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory (Dr. Erinn Mueller and Dr. Emily Hall), we are exploring a diverse set of bacteria associated with disease-resistant and disease-sensitive genotypes of staghorn coral Acropora cervicornis that are used in restoration efforts. Our aim is to isolate, culture, and characterize as many of these microbes as possible and test their ability to increase the resilience of the coral host in the field.

This work is funded by the FL Protect Our Reefs Program

This work is funded by the FL Protect Our Reefs Program

Stability and maintenance of coral-associated bacterial communities

We are working to characterize the composition of microbial communities associated with natural populations of coral and Aiptasia compared to those aquacultured in the lab. Using genotyping and DNA sequencing methods, these studies will provide insight into the evolutionary conservation of this community and how changes may affect the physiology and health of the cnidarian host.

Thermal tolerance and acclimation of the coral holobiont

Corals and anemones lose their algal symbionts under thermal stress, yet some strains are inherently more or less thermally tolerant. These holobionts also appear to acclimate to changing environmental conditions and thus may be more resistant to future stress. We are interested in the mechanisms of this differential thermal tolerance and are working to uncover genes involved in the host and algal response to thermal stress. It is a goal to extend these studies to also look at the microbial community and its potential role affecting the thermal tolerance of the holobiont. This work is in collaboration with Dr. John Pringle at Stanford University. This work is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Predictable Outcomes of Coral Restoration Efforts

In collaboration with Dr. Carly Kenkel's lab at the University of Southern California, we are working to better understand coral restoration efforts and what drives successful restoration of corals grown in a nursery setting. Funded by NOAA, this project is looking at changes in coral genetics, symbiont make up, and microbial community analysis to search for predictive markers for outplant success using the coral Acropora cervicornis in the Florida Keys.