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Iliana Baums

The Pennsylvania State University
208 Mueller Lab
University Park, PA 16802


Taxa Studied: Invertebrate Animals
Techniques Employed: Microarrays, Sanger Sequencing, 454 Pyrosequencing, Solexa (Illumina) Sequencing, Bioinformatics/Sequence Analysis, SNP Mapping, Time-Lapse Microscopy, Other, Microsatellite genotyping
Research Description: Temperature Adaptation in Corals This research focuses on the effects of temperature on dispersal of a reef-building coral, a topic particularly relevant in light of global warming and the sensitivity of corals to warming temperatures. A growing body of work has demonstrated the variability and importance of algal symbiont types ("clades") in determining survival of the holobiont (the coral animal and its algal symbionts) under high temperatures, but data is not available on the contribution of the coral animal. Acropora palmata is particularly worthy of attention because it is one of two coral species currently listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. By identifying signatures of selection over the range of the species, conservation efforts can prioritize source populations for restoration material based on adaptive similarity. Dispersal of larvae via ocean currents is a common strategy among sessile marine organisms and so spatially discontinuous populations maintain a shared gene pool. Long-lived reef building corals employ such strategies to connect their shallow-water populations across stretches of inhospitable open-ocean. Increasing seawater temperatures are predicted to quicken larval development so that average dispersal distances are expected to decrease. At the same time, species currently limited by minimum annual seawater temperatures may extend their ranges pole ward in the coming years. The objectives of this project are to measure the effect of high and low seawater temperatures on early life stages and ultimately predict changes in connectivity patterns as a result of global warming. We expect that individuals and populations differ in their abilities to respond to changing environmental conditions. We are measuring such adaptive trait variation in the reef-building coral Acropora palmata by a combination of gene expression experiments and population genomics. We just completed sequencing of the A. palmata larval transcriptome using 454 sequencing technology. Microarrays and digital gene expression experiments are yielding candidate genes for temperature adaptation in corals. A large number of genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are being developed, some within the genes identified as differentially expressed in the microarray experiment. Patterns of SNP variation will be assessed in existing range-wide samples of A. palmata and loci identified that show signatures of selection. Taken together these data will provide estimates of genome-wide adaptive trait variance in corals that can be incorporated into real-time dispersal models to predict changes in connectivity patterns as a result of global warming.
Lab Web Page: http://https://homes.bio.psu.edu/people/faculty/baums/Index.htm
Willing to Host Undergraduates: YES
Actively Seeking Undergraduates: YES
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