I currently use metranscriptomics to describe function in reef-building corals and their associates through the lens of pathogenic infection. We have established a holobiont centric RNASeq workflow to determine global gene expression patterns across the coral metaorganism (i.e. coral, symbiotic algae, and bacteria compartments), and compare healthy specimens and those with phenotypic presentation of a previously described 'bacterial' infection, White Plague Disease. This approach allows us to link specific gene functions associated with this disease to specific taxa and resolve any interplay occurring between holobiont members.
A second project explores coral larval settlement and the functional role of gene transfer agents (GTAs). GTAs are non-lytic, phage-like particles that package host material, and are produced by marine Alphaprotebacteria. These particles promote enhanced settlement of coral larvae onto biofilms. RNASeq data is also employed to identify differentially expressed genes between control and GTA treatments from settlement assays to determine the mechanism(s) involved in larval settlement, and if cross-kingdom signalling plays a role.
My interests are in working with non-model organisms and microbial communities to address functional questions in the marine environment.