Undergrad, B.Sc.(Hons), Monash Ph.D., University of Adelaide Postdoc, Harvard Assistant then Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin Associate then Full Professor, University of Calgary Field of Study; Molecular/cell/developmental biology
Our coral research investigates the molecular basis of reproductive timing in corals. The main study site is the Flower Garden Banks in the Gulf of Mexico. These two small, deep reefs (> 25 m deep and less than 40 acres) have over 70% coral cover and are in pristine condition. Over 90% of the individual corals are one of the five major Caribbean broadcast spawning species (Montastraea /Diploria), and all spawn on the same evening- usually eight nights after the August full moon. Timing at this site is extremely consistent, and each species spawning can be predicted to within approximately 10 minutes from year to year. We have been exploring how corals sense and respond to environmental cues to achieve this amazing accuracy. Using a combination of molecular analysis and field manipulation experiments we have identified molecular markers of light responsiveness and are using these to measure how corals sense solar and lunar illumination and use this information to regulate entrained and non-entrained elements of spawning behavior.