Cohort Level: Cohort - I
Career Goal: To work for NOAA, or an ocean research center such as Scripps in San Diego, or a healthcare consulting firm.
Expected Graduation Date: May 1, 2020
Degree: PhD Earth and Environmental Science
Research Title: Evaluating Coral Resiliency in Puerto Rico by Comparing In Situ and Satellite-Based Ocean Temperatures and Coral-Algae Association Dynamics
Research Synopsis: While covering less than one percent of the sea floor, coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth. Tragically, because of climate change-driven rising sea temperatures, most of the world’s reefs are threatened and in decline. For the coral reefs of Puerto Rico, the 2017 hurricane season was particularly devastating. We know that reefs can recover from stress, but recovery is often non-uniform and depends on the duration of the stress. It has been hypothesized that coral-algae symbiont community dynamics and/or environmental variables may relate to spatial irregularities in stress recovery but data are insufficient to quantify and understand these factors. This dissertation research investigates the relationship between NOAA Coral Reef Watch’s (CRW) 5km satellite-based sea surface temperatures (SST) product and in situ temperature loggers we deployed at Cayo Enrique and Cayo Mario, in La Parguera, Puerto Rico, and seeks to characterize the seasonal changes of the algae symbionts identity and density. Outcomes of this project include novel time series sea water temperature measurements collected in situ at varying depths in coral reef communities that help fill the in situ environmental data gap, and statistical analysis of these in situ measurements against NOAA CRW’s 5km satellite-based SST. This research will also further scientists’ understanding of seasonal symbiont shuffling, by conducting qPCR analysis on two Caribbean coral species to identify and compare the symbiont clade and density dynamics seasonally.