Tropical reef-building corals are complex biological systems comprised of a delicate balance of symbioses among the coral animal, intracellular dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae), bacteria, archaea, and viruses. We use microfluidic experiments and video microscopy to tease apart the chemical and physical interactions underpinning coral health and disease processes at the microscale. We study these processes both in the laboratory and in field settings, recently on Heron Island (Great Barrier Reef). We are currently focused on examining (i) pathogen behaviors and their response to host-derived chemical cues, and how this interaction is affected by increases in seawater temperature; and (ii) the complex ciliary flows that the coral animal creates along its surface and how it affects mass transport to and from the coral, in particular the export of oxygen from the zooxathellar photosynthesis.
Now working on this theme: Melissa Garren, Orr Shapiro, Vicente Fernandez, Kwangmin Son, Roberto Rusconi, Theresa Santiano-McHatton.