Physiology of corals from Red Sea reef flats

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Project Description

Corals play an integral part in the health of the oceans as ecosystem engineers, building highly diverse and large reef systems. However, rapid increases in natural and human-induced stressors mean that coral reefs are under more pressure than ever and are declining rapidly. In particular, increases in sea surface temperature threaten the functioning of the coral holobiont (the coral host plus its associated microbes). In order to better understand how corals will perform in warmer seas, this study will assess coral physiology across a temperature gradient in the central Red Sea, where some coral colonies are inhabiting high-temperature reef flats that serve as analogs to future ocean conditions. In particular, this project aims to evaluate total energy reserves (lipid, protein, and carbohydrate content) of corals across this temperature gradient from several reefs near KAUST. This project will focus, among others, on the following research questions: 1. Are there significant differences in total energy reserves of corals from sites experiencing different temperature ranges? 2. What are the seasonal differences in total energy reserves, and does season attenuate/magnify differences between sites? This position will primarily assist with extraction and quantification of lipids, protein and carbohydrates of samples in the laboratory. Assistance with sample collection in the field is also possible. As all of the colonies inhabit shallow water and are sampled via snorkeling, SCUBA certification is not required for this fieldwork. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all VSRP students are required to be fully vaccinated before arrival. Please refer to the VSRP webpage for more information.
Program - Marine Science
Division - Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Center Affiliation - Red Sea Research Center
Field of Study - Coral physiology

About the
Researcher

Michael L. Berumen

Professor, Marine Science<br/>Director, Red Sea Research Center

Michael L. Berumen
  • Larval connectivity and dispersal of reef fishes
  • Movement ecology of reef organisms
  • Biodiversity and evolutionary biology of Red Sea fauna

Desired Project Deliverables

The project is intended to assist with a PhD thesis exploring coral holobiont functioning across thermal gradients in the Red Sea. The goal is to have a peer-reviewed publication, in which the student would be a co-author.