Coral Reef Ecology

The Dinsdale Lab has had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers internationally and perform microbial analysis off the coast of Bahia, Brazil. We worked with local researchers to assess the health of the reefs through a variety of metrics from fish counts to microbial identification.  We have shown changes in microbial community composition corresponding to anthropogenic pressure across reefs. As coral reefs decline, the benthic community transitions from corals to algae and the biomass shifts from higher trophic levels, sharks, to bacteria and viruses. We hypothesize the change in benthic cover is influencing the proportion of heterotrophic bacteria in the water column. We have measured this change by looking at the water column directly over areas of reef dominated by one benthic organism and small mesocosm experiments. We find that at a small reef scale benthic organisms influence water column microbes and are assembling genomes from metagenomes to identify super-heterotrophs implicated in coral disease. These interactions over a small spatial scale can be modeled to represent the whole reef mosaic.

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Boat Mesocosm Experiment
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Edge of Coral Reef
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Microbial Samples
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Night Surveys