Hard corals underpin the existence and biodiversity of tropical reefs. However they are declining globally at an alarming rate, largely because of increases in disease prevalence and thermal bleaching events. As immunity represents a key life-history trait that determines an organism’s ability to resist infection and recover from injury, coral immunology is an emerging field, highly relevant to understanding the capacity of corals and coral reefs to persist in a warming world.
My research to date has laid the foundations for the rapid development of this field, including identifying and quantifying components of coral innate immunity and the relationship of immunity levels to bleaching and disease susceptibility. This headway enables the natural – and urgently needed – progression into more extensive investigations relating to the impacts of climate change, and into the development of tools that may enable the effects of disturbance events to be mitigated.