Harvey Mudd College
"Marine Ecological Genomics: Unraveling the Drivers of Coral Diversity from the Deep Sea to Deep Time"
Abstract: Corals and their relatives are some of the most ecologically important metazoans on earth, from shallow waters to the deep sea. With ocean conditions changing at rates faster than previously recognized, we must determine the factors that shape coral diversity across depth, space, and time. Because the drivers of marine diversity are poorly known in the largest environment on earth—the deep sea—I harness the power of genomics to answer fundamental questions in deep-sea systems. My research seminar will be centered on the drivers of coral diversity from the deep sea to deep time, with a particular focus on the influence of environmental conditions in shaping coral diversity and associated traits. First, I will focus on the role of dispersal limitation and environmental filtering in structuring deep-sea corals. I will highlight the influence of oceanographic conditions, including major ocean currents and water masses, on coral diversity and discuss how deep water masses may present adaptive challenges. I will then discuss how past environmental conditions influenced the diversification of corals with particular skeletal traits. It is important to understand how the past has influenced extant functional diversity because traits impact the distribution of species and assembly of communities, which ultimately results in a feedback loop between the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape patterns in diversity.