Graduate Research Projects 


Graduate Projects

The following is a list of current, on-going graduate projects.

Matt Ware

NOVA Southeastern University

Assessment of Acropora cervicornis (staghorn coral) transplants in the Florida Keys

This Master’s thesis includes two parts: monitoring the Little Conch restoration sites and conducting an assessment of past transplant work conducted by CRF. The objectives of the work include: 1) monitoring growth and condition of staghorn corals in the high density clusters and thickets that are part of an ongoing transplant experiment at Little Conch Reef, in the upper Florida Keys, and; 2) sampling a subset of past CRF-transplanted staghorn corals in the upper Keys to assess their survivorship, growth and condition. Both objectives address growth and condition of transplanted corals based on genotype, location, habitat type, and transplant methodology.

Cody Bliss

NOVA Southeastern University

Translocation of A. cervicornis to coral nurseries of differing geographic regions in south Florida

Cody is currently earning his graduate degree from NSU in Marine Biology and Coastal Zone Management. He is studying how coral fragments of staghorn coral grow in  two geographically separated coral nurseries in southeast Florida. A reciprocal transport experiment was conducted using fragments from the NSU Coral Reef Restoration Assessment and Monitoring coral nursery located in Fort Lauderdale (Broward County) and CRF’s nursery in Tavernier (Monroe County). The primary objective of this on-going research is to determine if staghorn fragments derived from different geographic regions can survive at multiple locations on the reef tract. Measurements used in the experiment include growth rates and zooxanthellae densities (the single-celled algae that live inside coral tissues).

Mark Ladd

Florida International University

Direct and indirect effects of staghorn outplant density on coral reef recovery

Active coral restoration, the process of outplanting coral colonies propagated in a nursery setting to reef sites, has emerged as a promising strategy to accelerate the recovery of degraded coral reefs. However, once corals have been grown in a nursery setting, there is limited information available to guide outplanting methods for coral reef restoration. To address these information gaps, in collaboration with CRF we are conducting long-term experiments (>2 years) using the threatened species Acropora cervicornis to investigate the influence of outplant density and arrangement on key coral reef community processes. This study will help us understand how different restoration designs affect coral reef recovery, a critical stop for developing effective restoration strategies.

Elizabeth Schrack, PhD student

Duke University

Effects of corallivore-induced injury and nutrient enrichment on microbial diseases affecting foundation coral A. cervicornis

Corallivore snails are small invertebrates that survive by consuming coral tissue. One snail in particular, Coralliophila abbreviata, prefers to prey on both staghorn and elkhorn corals. When C. abbreviata feeds on coral an exposed area of coral, skeleton is left behind, which damages the corals and makes it vulnerable to infection by disease and other stressors. In addition to predation, these snails can also act as carriers of coral diseases, such as White Band Disease. In the summer of 2013, Elizabeth and her team established a study in the Tavernier nursery to investigate the combined effects that snail predation, disease, and nutrient enrichment have on the overall condition and survival of staghorn coral.