Herbivore-Coral-Algal-Microbe Interactions on Coral Reefs

One of the most exciting portions of my research program is my collaboration with marine microbiologist Rebecca Vega Thurber (Oregon State University) to understand how alterations to top-down and bottom-up forces drive coral reef decline. We have been running an NSF-funded field experiment, Project HERBVRE  (Habitat Enrichment & Removal: Bacteria, Viruses, & Reef Ecology), testing the roles of overfishing and eutrophication in affecting algal-coral-microbe interactions and the prevalence of pathogenic bacteria on corals. In response to our herbivore exclusion/nutrient enrichment manipulations we have been monitoring changes in: (1) macroalgal abundance and diversity, (2) coral survivorship and growth, and (3) the taxonomic and functional/metabolic diversity of coral-associated microbes. These experiments represent novel field examinations blending traditional community ecology methods with cutting-edge molecular and metagenomics tools to address the synergistic impacts of multiple stressors on the benthic reef habitat and coral-microbial mutualisms.