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Invited Seminar - Marie Strader

Start Date: August 15, 2017
End Date: August 15, 2017

​​​HOST: Professor Tim Ravasi
TITLE:  Investigating complex larval traits in a reef-building coral ​   
DATE: Tuesday, August 15, 2017
TIME: 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Building 2 · Level 5 · Room 5209​

For most marine sessile invertebrates, dispersal relies on a planktonic phase that is transported by ocean currents. The patterns and scale of dispersal have a direct influence on the biogeographic distribution and genetic connectivity of a particular species, making dispersal a fundamental trait to understand life histories. In the case of reef-building corals, biological parameters that influence dispersal potential include the onset and length of competence, the ability of larvae to metamorphose in response to a specific environmental cue and, potentially, larval fluorescence. Using the reef-building coral Acropora millepora as a model, we performed an assay of gene expression between three larval fluorescent color morphs, to elucidate the functional significance of color variation in larvae. Red fluorescent larvae have gene expression profiles associated with thermal tolerance and diapause in other organisms. This suggests that red fluorescent larvae can be in the water column longer, potentially dispersing across broader distances. Further, patterns of gene expression through time revealed that larval maturation is correlated with upregulation of pathways associated with neuropeptide signaling and ion transport. To complement these correlative studies, the first method of genomic manipulation in reef-building corals was developed. Utilizing the CRISPR/Cas9 system we induced targeted mutagenesis in candidate genes associated with larval dispersal traits. Overall, this study improves our understanding of gene functions during larval development in an ecological context, providing new information on the traits that influence dispersal of reef-building corals. ​   

Marie Strader received her Bachelors in Science from the University of Oregon in 2010 and began her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin in 2012, where she is supervised by Dr. Mikhail Matz. Her work integrates ecological genomics, development and experimental biology to answer questions regarding how early life-history traits may influence dispersal potential in marine invertebrates. She is also interested in how marine larvae interact with dynamic environments and how this might relate to ecosystem resilience. ​