A year goes by so quickly!

It’s been over a year since last I updated the lab websites, but for good reason! It’s been an incredibly busy and productive period in our journey – coming to the end of current projects and starting new avenues of research.

First, an update on sea star wasting, which has been a major focus of our attention. We’ve been diligently working to complete our investigation of the microbial ecology of sea star wasting (supported by this project). Elliot’s been hard at work looking at the biogeography of densoviruses in asteroids not only on the west coast of North America but worldwide and recently published a paper detailing his results. He’s currently exploring the pathogenicity of the sea star associated densovirus in asteroid embryos in collaboration with Gary Wessel at Brown University.

We were joined in Summer 2019 by graduate student Jordan Rede, who initially worked on interpreting sea star 16S rRNA amplicon libraries from sea stars, and is now pursuing a project looking at seagrass microbiology* (see below) in collaboration with Bob Howarth, Roxanne Marino and Katie Haviland in Cornell’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

A major focus of our work on sea star wasting has been examining potential etiological factors for the condition. While our initial work identified a densovirus, further work suggested that no single factor could explain wasting everywhere. Along the way, we’ve seen some interesting bacteria associated with sea stars, and reviewed the current literature on wasting which suggests that wasting isn’t a new phenomenon. Rather, it looks like a condition that has occurred infrequently since at least 1896. Last summer, we embarked on a collaboration with Thierry Work (USGS-Honolulu) to look at the role of processes occuring at the animal-water interface, in concert with veterinary histopathological investigation of wound healing and body wall erosions. We now have convergent lines of evidence suggesting a single, but complicated cause, that wasting is not a pathogenic disease, nor is it a an environmental stressor. It relates to heterotrophic bacteria, organic matter, rugosity, and primary production. More on this soon!

We’ve also recently launched a new project to examine the global diversity of seagrass (Zostera spp.) diversity.

So lots going on, some new people and new directions for our work!

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