A University of Texas at
Arlington researcher who is working with colleagues in Puerto Rico to assess the
effects of warming ocean temperatures on coral reefs will present her research
at the 12th International Coral
Reef Symposium in Australia in July.
Laura Mydlarz, an assistant
professor of biology at UT Arlington, organized
and is co-chairing a series of talks on “Immune defenses of coral reef
organisms” at this summer’s conference. Coral reefs worldwide are threatened by
pollution, overfishing and climate change.
Mydlarz has found that different
species of Caribbean coral respond differently to environmental stressors, like
warming waters and disease. Some, such as the Porites astreoides or “mustard
hill coral,” have more successful, robust immune responses than others. These
coral species may survive while other susceptible species perish, changing the
reef landscape forever.
“Coral reefs are among the most
biologically diverse places in the world, with thousands of fish species alone
calling them home,” said Mydlarz. “The documented decline of coral cover is a
serious threat not only to this diversity, but the livelihoods of communities
living on the coast. Knowing more about their susceptibility to disease will
help us predict future changes and challenges”
The International Coral Reef
Symposium occurs once every four years and is sanctioned by the International Society for Reef Studies as
a way for researchers and other experts to share the latest in knowledge about
Some 2,500 attendees from 80
countries are expected this year. Mydlarz will be presenting work conducted in
her lab in collaboration with Jorge Pinzon, a post-doctoral fellow in the UT
Arlington biology department. Mydlarz’ graduate students, Elizabeth McGinty and
Whitney Mann, also will present their research at the conference.
Mydlarz is in the second year of a $409,537 National Science Foundation grant
to study coral disease, especially associated with environmental stress and
climate change. In her lab on the UT Arlington campus, she and her students are
analyzing coral samples from Puerto Rico for disease resistance markers. Her
collaborators on the grant are from the University of Puerto Rico and The
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Mydlarz also was recently a coauthor in a Journal of Experimental
Biology paper called: “Patterns of coral ecological immunology: variation in
responses of Caribbean corals to elevated temperature and a pathogen elicitor.”
“The research going on in Dr.
Mydlarz’ lab gives students the opportunity to reach beyond North Texas and
address a worldwide problem like coral decline,” said Pamela Jansma, dean of
the UT Arlington College of Science. “Her inclusion in this international
gathering is a testament to the quality of her work.”
The University of Texas at Arlington is a
comprehensive research institution of nearly 33,500 students in the heart of
North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu for