My research group studies the evolution and ecology of marine organisms using cutting-edge, next-generation sequencing, which had revolutionized molecular genetics by providing unprecedented access to the genetic variation in any organism’s genome or transcriptome. Thus, it is now possible to conduct in-depth genetic studies on any organism rather than a few tractable “model” organisms.
We use genomics to ask how marine organisms respond and adapt to their environment. For example, we use RNA sequencing (RNAseq) to profile how marine organisms, like tropical reef corals, respond to environmental stressors, like pathogen exposure and thermal stress. We use whole genome sequencing (and RADseq) to ask how evolution has shaped marine species over time, and in turn, will shape their ability to acclimate and adapt to future climate scenarios. We use metagenomics to examine the complex interactions between corals and their microbes to identify putative bacterial mutualists and pathogens, and to profile changes in coral-microbe communities change during perturbations such as disease infection or temperature stress.
On-going projects [for more information – see the projects page]
Coral immunity and disease resistance | NSF-funded research used RNA-sequencing to characterize the immune response of endangered staghorn corals infected with White Band Disease and identify the genetic bases of disease resistance in staghorn corals.
Coral microbiome: mutualists vs. pathogens | NSF-funded research in collaboration with the Gouhier lab focused on identifying how competition among coral microbial mutualists and pathogens shape the coral microbiome. Our research combines coral microbial meta-genomics and meta-transcriptomics with infectious disease models to examine the dynamics of the staghorn coral microbiome.
Coral Speciation and Hybridization | Coral reefs are built by a diverse assemblage of reef-building (or Scleractinian) corals. Yet, how this coral diversity originated and is maintain is still poorly understood. One key question has revolved around how high coral species diversity is maintained in the face of high hybridization potential. Our work in the Caribbean Acropora and Eastern Pacific Pocillopora hybridization systems has characterized the patterns and rates of introgressive hybridization between coral species and demonstrated that genetic mixing is typically limited by selection against hybrid genes.