Exploration of Fossil DNA as a Novel Tool to Reconstruct Past Microbial Diversity and Climate-change in the Tropics


Marco Coolen, Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department, WHOI

We are conducting a field-based study of climate-linked physical, chemical, and biological influences on coral calcification and reef health. Our short-term goal  is to lay the logistical/instrumental groundwork and begin collecting quantitative data on the key variables known to influence coral calcification. Our hypothesis is that coral calcification in the field, on timescales relevant to maintenance of healthy reef ecosystems, responds not to a single variable such as temperature or carbonate ion concentration, but to a range of physical, chemical and ecological factors and the interactions among them. Multidisciplinary studies like the one proposed here will be needed to understand these links. The environmental data and initial feeding and calcification rate determinations from this study will provide a baseline and foundation for ongoing coral studies at the LJL in Panama, and will complement our ongoing work studying coral growth in other field settings (e.g. on Bermuda), and in laboratory cultures here at WHOI (Cohen, Gast, McCorkle, Holcomb). In addition, the real-time data on plankton abundance will compliment several ongoing and proposed studies at the LJL while providing novel measurements of capture rates by coral polyps that will shed light on the capture process at the mechanistic level. Our proposed work furthers the goals of the Ocean Life Institute, specifically The Health of Marine Ecosystems and Instrumentation Development themes, of which the assessment and monitoring of ecosystem health and sustainability is a primary component.