Development of Coastal Pollutant Biomarkers to Aid Coral Reef Conservation

Stephan Bitterwolf, Michael Beck, Donald Potts, Marilou Sison-Mangus

Positions: 1-2 interns

Project location: Main Campus (Earth and Marine Sciences Building) and Coastal Campus (Doyle)

Project description: Stephan Bitterwolf is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Ocean Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In his doctoral research, he studies how tropical corals respond to anthropogenic pollutants (e.g., herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals) through laboratory experiments to identify protein, gene expression, microbiome, and symbiome patterns unique to each stressor. These patterns can then be examined in natural coral colonies to assess the presence of pollutants from small tissue samples.

Potential projects include:

  1. Utilizing sequencing technology to identify biomarkers of coral stress or resilience to stress from coral in laboratory experiments
  2. Characterizing changes in the microbiome and symbiome (i.e., the community of symbiotic algae residing in corals) in response to environmental stress (e.g., bleaching, light, pollution, etc.) induced in laboratory experiments
  3. Examining the effect of captivity on the coral holobiont (i.e., the entire being including the animal, bacteria, and algal symbionts)
  4. Exploring the utility of gene expression for characterizing the difference between acute and chronic stress
  5. Creating new methodologies to count Symbiodiniacea using flow cytometry

Intern duties: Join our research team and assume duties including participating in weekly lab meetings, keeping corals alive, running the experiments, conducting literature reviews, learning computational skills, and presenting the results. Projects and responsibilities may be modified based on your interests.

Intern qualifications: Seeking motivated EEB, MCD, BIO, BME, and CS undergraduate student(s) to conduct research on tropical corals at UC Santa Cruz. Must be ready to work as part of a team. Students will be required to complete basic lab safety training.

Do you recommend the intern(s) volunteer in your lab during Spring quarter?
Yes! Volunteers could assist in creating the experimental system, designing new experiments, maintaining coral cultures, and learning computational skills required (e.g., QIIME2, DESeq2, TagSeq, etc.).

Contact: Stephan Bitterwolf | sbitterw@ucsc.edu | stephanbitterwolf.com | https://www.instagram.com/coralresiliencelab/

UC Santa Cruz Land Acknowledgement

“The land from which we base our work is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.”