Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet, and provide substantial economic and ecological benefits to coastal communities. Corals are composed of both the Cnidarian animal host and complex communities of unique and underexplored microbial organisms. Today these natural wonders are in global decline, threatened by the intersecting effects of multiple stressors including overfishing, pollution, and climate change. These stressors can alter coral microbial communities in ways that may make corals more susceptible to disease or algal competition.
This project aims to describe microbial diversity across all major groups of reef-building corals in each of several distinct ecosystems across the globe, to determine the genome sequences and metabolic capabilities of key coral bacteria, and to test whether the composition of coral microbial communities helps to explain the overall vulnerability or resistance of different coral species to stress or disease.