CAREER: Coral Health Genomics: Transcriptome Analysis of two Caribbean Species and their Algal Symbionts

Project: Research project

Project Details


Coral reefs are shallow benthic communities that harbor the highest

biodiversity in tropical seas. These ecosystems are endangered due to global climate

change and anthropogenic pressure from coastal areas. Coral health has been

decaying at unprecedented rates in the past decades and is therefore in need of

immediate attention. A healthy reef requires a stable coral-algal symbiosis. Thus,

understanding the processes required for this mutualism is fundamental for coral

reef preservation. Examining how corals respond to bacterial pathogens can also shed

light onto how host-pathogen interactions may be the same or differ from processes

that affect symbiotic interactions. The use of high throughput gene expression profiling

(transcriptomics) is a relatively new genomics approach that promises to enhance the

study of these interactions. This project will examine the transcriptome as it varies

from natural (i.e., healthy) to disturbed states (i.e., bleached or diseased) in two

coral-algal symbioses from the Caribbean: the corals Acropora palmata and

Montastraea faveolata and their dominant dinoflagellate symbionts.

The outcome of this research will contribute to the study of symbiosis as well as to

applied fields such as conservation and management, including the development of

coral health diagnostics. This project will train underrepresented minorities at the

University of California, Merced. This new campus offers higher education and

research opportunities to the disadvantaged Central Valley communities. This

educational effort will be enhanced by a partnership with the DOE Joint Genome

Institute to develop a course in Genome Biology. Students will also have the

opportunity to be involved in environmental podcasting through the UC Merced

website in three languages representative of the Central Valley populations

(English, Spanish and Hmong). The project will also continue with successful

outreach activities in collaboration the California Academy of Sciences through

teacher training workshops.

Effective start/end date7/1/138/31/14


  • National Science Foundation: $50,645.00


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