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Characterizing the Ecology of Coral Reef Microorganisms Across Different Scales Within the Caribbean

Laura Weber, Ph.D., 2020
Amy Apprill, Advisor

Microorganisms sustain the high productivity of coral reefs and support one of the most diverse, valuable, and threatened ecosystems on Earth. Despite the importance of reef microorganisms, there is a lack of understanding about their ecology, especially on Caribbean reefs. Furthermore, the hastening degradation of reefs due to anthropogenic stressors has made it difficult to understand natural patterns in microbial communities in the context of larger-scale ecosystem changes. Using genomics and metabolomics approaches paired with biogeochemical and physicochemical measurements as well as quantification of cell abundances, this dissertation provides optimized methods for studying the coral microbiome, investigates potential interactions between corals and seawater microorganisms, measures changes in the composition and diversity of reef seawater microorganisms over different spatial and temporal scales, and provides baseline information about microbial ecology, biogeochemistry, and metabolite compositions of a protected and relatively-healthy Cuban coral reef-system to fill these critical knowledge gaps.