Students Spend Summer Researching Coral Reefs

Dr. James M. Cervino PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology and Health Sciences, and graduate students Kate Furby and Brianna Huff at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Dr. James M. Cervino PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology and Health Sciences, and graduate students Kate Furby and Brianna Huff at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Dr. James M. Cervino PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology and Health Sciences, and students in the Masters of Science in Environmental Science program spent part of this summer working on collaborative research projects at The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

In addition to the graduate students, two undergraduate students, Pamela Lawther and Ivan Lukachynets, are assisting in the research by preparing the laboratory samples in Pace’s labs and sending them to the Woods Hole lab.

“They’re kind of the behind-the-scenes help,” explained Cervino, who is a visiting scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and an expert in the field of coral physiology and climate change research. “So it’s a real collaboration.”

Cervino’s research projects in Woods Hole, which started about a year and a half ago, are being supported by the Government of Saudi Arabia. He is collecting coral samples that are as much as 3,000 years old, and testing them to compare to current day samples, looking for the effects of climate change and trying to determine the impact of human activity.

“Corals can be used to date past temperature events, just like tree rings, so I can look at them and identify stresses that are 200, 300, 500 years old,” Cervino explained, “and then compare them to current day corals to see if they are experiencing the same or new stresses.”

Graduate student Kate Furby is assisting on this project, working on climate change-induced molecular and chemical signals in corals that have occurred over the past 100 years using geochemistry.

In another related project, graduate student Briana Huff is focusing on cell biology of corals and shellfish that have been destroyed as a result of pesticides and thermal stress due to global warming that resulted in coral disease.

Also this summer, Cervino presented three abstracts at the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., along with graduate student Angela Dona.

The symposium is the world’s leading coral reef science conference, and is held once every four years.