make a site for free

Coral Community Structure

In the spring of 2011, I became a MARC scholarThis scholarship afforded me the opportunity to explore my interests in coral reef ecology and health with coral disease expert and ecologist, Dr. Marilyn Brandt.    

Damselfish on a Rice Coral

    Under her mentorship at UVI and Dr. Greta Aeby at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), I began to research the effects that multiple environmental stressors and a genera-specific coral disease had on the reefs of the Coconut Island Marine Reserve (CIMR) in Kane`ohe Bay, O`ahu, Hawai`i. This internship at CIMR solidified my interests in coral ecology. For the project, I replicated the methods of a previous survey conducted in 2008. Between then and my study in 2011, Kane`ohe Bay was subjected to many disease outbreaks, including the Montipora white syndrome (MWS) outbreak. This disease led to the death of many Montipora capitata (rice coral) in 2010. I was responsible for investigating the impact this MWS outbreak had on the coral community structure of CIMR since 

 2008.  I utilized qualitative and quantitative transect surveys to determine coral disease prevalence and community structure within CIMR. Comparing this data to that which was recorded in 2008, I discovered that M. capitata densities had decreased and Porites compressa (the second dominant coral species) densities increased. This result exemplified interspecies competition and the effect disturbances can have on the success of an individual or species. Today, disease outbreaks continue within Kane`ohe Bay and on the coral reefs of nearby islands, such as Kaua`i. The loss of Montipora species will reduce the structural complexity of reefs in Hawai`i, thereby impacting its dependent community of animals and people.

Kaneohe Bay

Rice Coral


  1. Found significant difference in relative abundance before and after the disease outbreak - Between 2007 and 2011 a significant change in coral composition was measured at two sites. These sites experienced significant reductions in Montipora capitata cover and signficant increases in Porites compressa cover.
  2. Found significant correlation between coral colony size and disease occurance - Through analysing the 30,000+ data set we were able to update the life history of C. striata. We determined the average age at sexual maturity, the month of spawning, the age to size relationship, and the time period at which these fish switch gender.
  3. Created and Presented Poster- This project was articulated in a poster presentation at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in the fall of 2011. My presentation of this research received a "Best Poster" award in the computational biology field.