Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies

​His effort will be throughout the Red Sea (current work ranges from the in Farasan Islands to reefs near Yanbu, with plans for work farther north) and elsewhere for comparative studies. Additional collaborative efforts with researchers from the US, Mexico, Japan and Australia are being set up. Repeated surveys and intensive field efforts with trip durations of up to 14 days involve diving for sampling and observation, deployment/recovery of instrument clusters by divers, etc. Samples of coral tissues and surrounding sea water will be investigated for the presence, composition, and function of microbial communities associated with corals. The main goals of these studies are to determine 1) if the microbial communities are specific to certain coral species 2) what the exact function of each population of coral-associated microbes is 3) a detailed analysis on how the symbiosis between corals and microbes is established 4) how the symbiotic association works on a metabolic and molecular level. The work on coral-associated microbes does not only encompass symbiotic phototrophic microalgae (Zooxanthellae), but also heterotrophic bacteria and archaea whose function is the coral ecosystem is far less known. Special emphasis is given to responses of microbes to different kinds and levels of environmental stress (ocean acidification, global warming). Nutritional ecology studies will involve extensive use of research aquaria to sustain butterflyfish and corals in at least 35-40 replicate aquaria for 4-5months. Feeding experiments have been conducted at Lizard Island Research Station (Australia) this year. The nutritional ecology studies have started with a focus on fishes that eat corals. These fishes are the first groups to be affected by changes in coral health, with potential changes in behavior, physiology, and life history. As climate change continues to alter coral communities, understanding how fish ecology will be affected will allow us to better predict what fish communities will look like in the future. We have set up a new collaboration with the Scientific Centre of Monaco (CSM) starting in June this year. Briefly, environmental tag sequencing will be conducted with 3 species of corals that have been collected globally. Another project is with the American University of Cairo (AUC), in which we assay spatial differences in microbial associations in coral species of the Red Sea on the level of individuals, communities, and reefs.

Collaborators

  • Berumen

  • Voolstra

  • Stingl

  • Kaartvedt