A new mass mortality… and lessons learned!

It’s been a busy start to 2022 – the team making excellent progress on our NSF-funded project to examine how environmental productivity affects flavivirus replication (based largely on the experiment we performed in Sitka last November), concluding work on our global Zostera (seagrass) virome project, but also keeping ears to the rails for new mass mortality events! In mid-February the team learned that the Caribbean sea urchin Diadema antillarum, which experienced mass mortality in the early 1980s resulting in shifts from coral to algal cover across the region, was experiencing another mass mortality event. The team is currently working with scientists at the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment network to provide advice and tips based on our previous efforts on Sea Star Wasting Disease which we worked on from 2013 – 2021. There is currently no data to support any etiology of the current Diadema disease, which could be due to a pathogenic or non-pathogenic disease, environmental stress, starvation, pollutant/toxicant, etc – there is simply no way to know at this stage what might be at work. Hence, our emphasis at the moment is to support scientists in the region to collect as many, and as widely, samples which can be used for as many downstream analyses as possible! We learned a great deal during our investigation of sea star wasting – what samples to collect, what samples can be misleading – etc. Ian has put together a short presentation on tips and tricks for marine disease investigation, which hopefully will help others in their work!


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