UTA Biologist Coral Species Disease Research Highlighted at Earth Day Event

Laura Mydlarz, an associate professor of biology at the University of Texas at Arlington, is leading a new study to quantify how susceptible coral species are to disease through a series of experiments and approaches.

The project, titled “Immunity to Community: Can Quantifying Immune Traits Inform Reef Community Structure?” is funded by a two-year $220,331 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences.

Recent environmental changes have led to a sharp increase in coral diseases in reefs around the world. Unhealthy coral reefs cannot support the fish and other forms of life that make reefs vibrant and diverse ecosystems.

“Coral diseases don’t affect all coral species in a reef the same,” Mydlarz said. “Some coral are more susceptible to certain diseases. A reef is made up of many different species of coral. If a disease kills off one species of coral in a reef, that’s going to greatly affect the reef community as a whole. We want to learn why some coral species are more tolerant of certain diseases.”

The project will focus on coral reefs in the Caribbean off the U.S. Virgin Islands. The site was chosen due to the high diversity of coral found there and the extensive presence of “white plague” disease, which can cause rapid tissue loss in corals. The coral species examined will differ in disease susceptibility, growth rates and reproductive strategies.

Click here for more information regarding Mydlarz’s coral species research.

The research will be highlighted at outreach events in Florida, the Virgin Islands and Texas. That includes Earth Day Texas 2017, scheduled for April 22 at Fair Park in Dallas.