Abstract: The swiftly changing climate presents a challenge to organismal fitness by creating a mismatch between the current environment and phenotypes adapted to historic conditions. Rapid compensatory response to environmental change generated by epigenetic mechanisms and the emergent properties of symbiosis can provide a temporal buffer for genetic adaptation. My research focuses on these acclimatory mechanisms that may be especially crucial for sessile benthic marine systems, such as reef-building corals, where climate change factors including ocean acidification and temperature elicit strong negative physiological responses and mortality. By integrating across biological scales from molecular to ecological in a series of adult preconditioning experiments to future temperature and ocean acidification, I found evidence of trans-generational acclimatization and positive parental effects. Furthermore, my findings support a role for DNA methylation as a driver of phenotypic plasticity. Induction of potentially heritable phenotypic plasticity via preconditioning may provide mechanisms with significant implications for reef persistence under rapid climate change.
Biography: I am currently a National Science Foundation Ocean Sciences Fellow and School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Young Investigator at the University of Hawaii Manoa’s Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. My work is focused on coral response to climate change. I study epigenetic and symbiotic factors that may provide a buffer for corals against the rapid rate of environmental change. www.hollieputnam.com