Ben, a first year Master’s student is currently working on a project with Dr. Xaymara Serrano, a RSMAS graduate and researcher at NOAA. They are analyzing the gene expression of healthy and diseased corals. With this research, they hope to reveal mechanisms that may constitute disease resistance signatures in Acropora cervicornis and Acropora palmata, the only two branching corals found in the Caribbean. These two corals are vitally important in Florida’s reef ecosystems due to the habitat structures they provide for a number of organisms on Caribbean coral reefs. A thorough understanding of how these species may be disease resistant is extremely important to ensure their future survival.
By examining the genes of an organism, you can gain insight as to how the organism responds to harmful impacts such as disease. In Ben’s project, he is working on extracting RNA from preserved diseased and healthy samples of corals. From these extractions, a cDNA library can be created and sequenced. These libraries of an organism’s DNA sequence can reveal the genetic history and adaptations of the animal, and even be used to clone genes. Check out this time lapse of Ben working at the lab station on his cDNA library for his coral disease research.