Ben is thrilled to be jumping into his thesis project this first semester. His project is examining the gene expression between the healthy and diseased genotypes of Acropora palmata to identify disease resistant coral colonies. Acropora palmata, or Elkhorn coral are an essential species of coral in the Caribbean that create habitat for other marine organisms. Unfortunately, a vast percentage of Elkhorn coral has been decimated in recent decades due to cumulative human impacts. They are critically endangered and protected under the Endangered Species Act. This research will lead to discoveries about Elkhorn’s capacity for disease resistance and will highlight other important factors such as how well they tolerance heat, and how disease affects their reproduction. The ultimate goal of this project is to provide information for coral reef restoration projects and assist management. By integrating disease resistant, highly fertile, and heat resistant corals, the fittest version of Acropora palmata can be established on reefs to conserve coral reef ecosystems throughout Florida and the Caribbean.