Biology researchers study fire coral to learn impacts of global warming

In a Cornell College science lab, you’ll find three student researchers.

Their minds, however, are really out in the Caribbean exploring the coral reef.

Alex Place ’17, Glorisette Santiago-Rivera ’17, and Winfield Miller ’17 are looking at samples of fire coral that Professor Craig Tepper has collected with former classes in Belize and the Bahamas.

“We are using DNA analysis to look at both coral and the symbionts in the coral in order to study how they are currently reacting to different warmer ocean temperatures and how they might continue to do so as global warming continues to advance,” Miller said.

The group is using DNA analysis to determine which symbionts are present in the coral samples. When water temperatures rise, the coral can switch or expel symbionts.

“It will allow us to see if there’s any type of benefit from a certain symbiont to the fire coral and figure out if it helps it to be more resistant to thermal stress, in comparison to other types of coral and other types of symbionts,” Santiago-Rivera said.

This is their 2016 Cornell Summer Research Institute project. They are one of many groups working on intensive research projects for ten weeks.

Watch their video story here: