Unraveling fungi community patterns in Red Sea coral reefs

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Project Description

It is widely known that coral reefs represent one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth. There have been numerous attempts to quantify and evaluate species richness and functional diversity in reef environments. However, the majority of research so far has focused on macro organisms - most likely due to difficulties in evaluating the hidden “cryptobiome” of reefs in a standardized way. The deployment of Autonomous Reed Monitoring Structures (ARMS), in combination with metabarcoding, successfully performed by KAUST scientists in the recent past can be key to identify taxonomic and functional groups of Red Sea coral reefs associated organisms. Studies using ARMS in the Red Sea so far have targeted eukaryotic and bacterial taxa. However, fungal communities that can play critical roles in reef functioning have been overlooked. To close the knowledge gap on fungal communities in Red Sea coral reefs, we are looking for a student (undergraduate or graduate) to investigate the following aspects: (1) Evaluation of fungal community compositions and their spatio-temporal distribution throughout Red Sea ARMS deployment sites, based on metabarcoding data analysis. Which gradients do emerge and how do they relate to environmental variables, such as sea surface temperature?; and (2) How are fungal communities connected to bacterial communities identified by Pearman et al. (2019)?
Program - Marine Science
Division - Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Field of Study - ​Coral reef biodiversity and functioning

About the
Researcher

Daniele Daffonchio

Professor, Bioscience

Daniele Daffonchio
Professor Daffonchio's research interests are in the microbial ecology of complex ecosystems in conventional and extreme aquatic and terrestrial habitats. His research is spanning from basic aspects of microbial ecology through the application of synthetic ecology approaches to applied aspects for the environmental protection and sustainability of agriculture.

Professor Daffonchio has developed research on the exploration and characterization of extreme marine and terrestrial environments, both pristine and polluted. He is actually dealing with the study and exploitation of extremophile microorganisms along the water stress continuity from the Arabian desert to the depth of the brine pools in the Red Sea. A particular focus is on the bacteria-host symbiosis with plants and animals in relation to the water and salinity stresses.

Desired Project Deliverables

​The overall aim of the project is a peer-reviewed publication with the student being the first author​