Research

Focus

Dr. Medina has explored patterns of evolution through comparative phylogenetic approaches for more than two decades.  The onset of symbiosis has been a driving force for species success and is the topic of most of our studies. While the research investigations by the Medina Lab vary from coral microbiomes to scyphozoan development, the commonality among our work is the use of cnidarian genomics to answer a wide array of ecological and evolutionary questions.

SPECIES OF STUDY

Orbicella species complex

Orbicella faveolata, O. annularis, and O. franksi are three closely-related, important mounding coral species capable of hybridization.  From an evolutionary perspective, this species complex provides a fascinating opportunity to study the pre-zygotic barriers to interspecies fertilization.  We use transcriptomic data from spawning adults to understand how their gene expression changes with the lunar and tidal cues that initiate spawning.

The Medina Lab has expanded its efforts to understand this dominant reef-building complex by sequencing the genomes and transcriptomes of the three Orbicella species, among other important Caribbean coral species.  Dr. Medina and Dr. Bishoy Hanna, a Medina Lab alumnus, are two of the founding members of the Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance (GIGA) which provides a collaborative environment for marine invertebrate geneticists and standards for sharing genomic data.

The Medina Lab has sequenced, assembled and annotated 10 bacterial genomes from microorganisms found in O. faveolata. Currently, we are performing physiological studies in culture to assess the abilities of coral-associated bacteria.

To further describe the microbiomes of healthy corals around the world, the Medina Lab and collaborators started the Global Coral Microbiome Project (GCMP).

Cassiopea species

The regenerative powers of this scyphozoan group may have important properties for use in the medical field.  Our research aims to elucidate the mechanisms of regeneration using this species.

Cassiopea is a model genus for coral bleaching research. By exposing the polyps to different temperatures, we can understand the mechanisms of dysbiosis that lead to coral bleaching.  Observing the onset of symbiosis of Cassiopea with Symbiodinium is important for understanding the obligate interaction between the dinoflagellate and reef-building scleractinia.  These research opportunities have been highlighted by Dr. Aki Ohdera, a Medina Lab alumnus, in the collaborative publication entitled Upside-Down but Headed in the Right Direction: Review of the highly versatile Cassiopea xamachana System.

Want to know how to raise these jellies? Stay tuned for the Cassiopea husbandry Wikipedia page!

STUDY SITES

Varadero, Colombia

We aim to improve conservation efforts by better understanding how corals behave under different scenarios like experimental bleaching, reciprocal transplanting, and describing natural conditions such as the thriving Varadero Reef in the Colombian Caribbean coast. We invite you to look into our Story of Varadero page!

Varadero reef is characterized by poor water quality due to the sediment and pollutant deposition by the Magdalena River, yet hosts 45-80% coral coverage by 42 species.  The flora and fauna of this marginalized reef have been documented by the Medina Lab and collaborators.  Varadero may hold the key to predicting the future face of coral reefs as local stressors persist across the globe.  Currently, the Medina Lab is analyzing the microbiome of corals at Varadero and surrounding reefs to understand the biotic conditions that facilitate coral growth despite poor water quality.

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