When one thinks of a coral reef, visions of brightly colored fish, exotic sea animals, and even encounters with sea turtles or dolphins usually fill the mind. Above all, however, we imagine the prismatic coral that make up the foundation of this vital ecosystem. Usually bright yellow, royal purple, or mossy green, coral is made up of many tiny organisms. Inside the coral live phytoplankton, a type of microscopic organism that provides the coral with food and is the source of the coral’s distinctive color.
When corals are unhealthy, they expel the phytoplankton, and hence turn a pale white color, called bleaching, which is often a sign of disease. Coral reefs support many other microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and archaea. This group of organisms is referred to as the coral microbiome, and scientists know very little about how these organisms affect the reef’s health.
On Monday, May 9, Corvallis Science Pub will host Rebecca Vega-Thurber, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology at OSU, who will discuss a plan to analyze the coral microbiome. Along with Vega-Thurber’s presentation, this Science Pub will offer a preview of scenes from Saving Atlantis, a new film covering the worldwide Coral Microbiome Project.
Vega-Thurber received a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2005 and worked at San Diego State and Florida International University before arriving at OSU in 2011. As always, Science Pub is free and open to the public—held regularly on the second Monday of every month from 6 to 8 p.m. at Old World Deli in Corvallis.
By Kyra Blank