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What Are We Doing?

Research

Information is limited on the physiological parameters that define healthy coral and less on coral disease dynamics. Our challenge is to apply advanced technologies in functional genomics, proteomics and systems biology to expand our knowledge in coral health and disease dynamics. The knowledge gained from this approach will position us to move aggressively toward characterizing the processes that control ecological connectivity among reefs and discover critical control points for management strategies.

  • EST sequences available – Over 4000 sequences have been produced from EST (expressed sequence tags) projects for Montastraea annularis, Oculina varicosa, and Porites porites, accessible at http://www.marinegenomics.org.
  • Coral Microbial Communities – Over 38,000 ribosomal gene sequences cloned from coral-associated bacteria are available at http://www.marinegenomics.org.
  • Porites astreoides cDNAs – New normalized cDNA library has been constructed and 12,000 sequences related to adult, and early life stage gene products are available at http://www.marinegenomics.org.

Diagnostic Resources

There is limited application of medical/veterinary knowledge or protocols to the study of coral health and disease, resulting in ambiguous and often misleading communication of findings. Compounded by inadequate diagnostic tools and insufficient application of diagnostic procedures, the challenge is to develop standardized procedures based on medical principles that clearly define the terminology, pathology and diagnostic criteria.

  • Setting Diagnostic Criteria - Experts in coral biology, pathology and veterinary science have met to develop web-enabled tools for use in recognizing gross signs of disease and use in clinical diagnostic pathology and developing case definitions for selected coral syndromes. The web-tool is available to guide investigators in the diagnostic process. (link)
  • Advanced Histology Workshop reviewed case studies, set nomenclature and developed an extensive glossary; the report is available as a pdf or on request. Submit request at cdhc.coral@noaa.gov
  • Diagnostic Tools Available - Consortium members have achieved significant advances in diagnostic assay development that will assist researchers in identifying coral stressors. Examples of new techniques include:
    • DNA probe for the White Plague agent – Dr. Laurie Richardson, Florida Atlantic University
    • DNA sequence analysis for the White Pox agent Serratia marcescens (newly designated 'White Pox Serratiosis' when the presence of S. marcescens is confirmed) - Dr. Kathryn Sutherland, Rollins College, Winter Park FL
    • coral immuno-competence (IMCOMP) assay to assess the presence of antimicrobial agents within coral tissue by using a modified bacterial viability assay – Dr. Craig Downs, Haereticus Environmental Laboratory
    • PCR-screening test for recognized pathogens – Dr. Shawn Polson, Univ. Delaware & NOAA NOS Charleston, SC
    • DNA AP site lesions – NOAA NOS Charleston, SC
    • Various toxicity tests are being adapted or modified to address development, mutagenesis, and cellular pathologies associated with toxicant exposures.

Educational Opportunities

  • Pauley Program Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.
  • Coral Tissue Slide Reading course – A training and slide annotation course for normal histology of corals, using virtual slide technologies. Mote Marine Lab, Summerland Key, FL Summer 2010. http://isurus.mote.org/Keys/slide_workshop_2010.phtml
  • Diseases of Corals and Other Reef Organisms – A training course for recognition of diseased corals and other reef organisms in the field. Mote Marine Lab, Summerland Key, FL Summer 2010. http://isurus.mote.org/Keys/disease_workshop_2010.phtml
  • Genomics for the Non-Genomics Coral Scientist Course – The course will introduce non-experts in genomics to the potential uses of genome science. In a week, whole genome projects, basic databases, transcriptome analysis by sequence and microarray approaches, and tools for microbial diversity assessment will be covered. Practical problem sets will be used to illustrate each of the types of data available to today’s coral researcher and provide the participants with practical experience with real coral data. June 21-27, 2009.
  • CDHC Response Workshops - Two training workshops are planned, one in the Caribbean and the other in the Pacific to train responders in methods of outbreak investigation for unusual coral disease outbreaks. Expected dates: Guam spring 2010; Caribbean, summer 2010.