UOG Faculty Share Cutting-Edge Genetic Research Approaches in Hong Kong

University of Guam Marine Laboratory (UOGML) faculty and Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium (GEC) Researchers, Dr. Sarah Lemer and Dr. David Combosch recently presented at the University of Hong Kong’s Swire Institute of Marine Science about their ongoing efforts to characterize the bleaching resilience of Guam’s reef corals. 

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Held on October 16, 2017 and organized by Dr. Dave Baker at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Biological Sciences, the special guest seminar focused on Drs. Combosch and Lemer’s participation in the GEC and their scientific approaches to exploring the complex question of coral resiliency to environmental stress. Drs. Combosch and Lemer discussed their approach of implementing a combination of research strategies that includes fieldwork, molecular species differentiation, phylogenomics, population genomics, and experimental gene expression assays.
“We’re using cutting-edge genomic tools and we’re asking questions that have not been asked here before,” said Dr. Lemer. “With our newly implemented genomic facility, we are now able to do everything on island, from sample collection, data generation and analyses. Also, we enable students and our colleagues at the UOG Marine Laboratory to use those tools and approaches for their own work.”

“The questions that we’re asking are highly relevant and urgently required for local conservation and management,” said Dr. Combosch. “For example, we study the dispersal scales of marine organisms, which has important implications for the resilience of local populations and ecosystems and their ability to recover after disturbances, which is fundamental for an informed design of marine protected areas.”

The GEC was formed in 2015 in the aftermath of the island experiencing its largest coral bleaching event in 2013. At the time researchers had noted a difference in bleaching susceptibility among the affected coral species and populations. Today GEC Researchers seek to understand what accounts for the differences observed by studying the genetics of coral species around Guam. This insight will inform local, regional, and global conservation efforts and coral research and is made possible through the University of Guam’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, a $6 million grant award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

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