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NURP/NIUST researcher awarded NSF Grant

This story entered on 14th Jan, 2008 06:58:50 AM PST

The National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology (NIUST), an institute under NOAA's Undersea Research Program (NURP), provided the seed funding for the study of a new coral disease that led to a National Science Foundation Grant for a team of scientists at the University of Mississippi and the University of Alabama.

Dr. Deb Gochfeld, Senior Scientist with the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research is part of a collaborative team with Dr. Julie Olson at University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and Dr. Bob Thacker at the University of Alabama at Birmingham that will look at a new disease plaguing a particular species of sponge in the Caribbean.

Aplysina Red Band Syndrome was first identified in the summer of 2004 in the Bahamas with seed funding from a NURP/NIUST grant.

The newly identified disease attacks one of the most abundant species of sponges on the reefs in the Bahamas. “Ten percent of this particular sponge is already affected,” said Gochfeld, “it has the potential to cause a lot of damage.”

Gochfeld, Olson and Thacker plan to study the ecology, microbiology, genetics and chemical ecology of this disease on Caribbean reefs, in order to learn how the disease is transmitted, what is causing it and what its effects are. By attacking the new disease from all possible angles, the biologists hope to identify ways to stop the potential damage to this already fragile reef system.

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Updated: June 4, 2008