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Current Projects

Killer Seaweeds: Allelopathy Against Fijian Corals

Abstract: Coral reefs are in dramatic global decline, with reefs commonly converting from species-rich and topographically-complex communities dominated by corals to species-poor and topographically-simplified communities dominated by seaweeds. These phase-shifts result in fundamental loss of ecosystem function. Despite debate about whether coral-to-algal transitions are commonly a primary cause,...

Exploration, Conservation, and development of Marine Biodiversity in Fiji

Abstract: Our overall goals are to : (1) coordinate investigations of South Pacific marine organisms as pharmaceutical resources for treating diseases of importance in the Pacific Islands and United States and for novel bioenergy applications (2) support sustainable uses of the biodiversity upon which such bioprospecting depends, and (3) understand the processes degrading coral reef ecosystems and...

Manipulating Herbivore Diversity to Restore Coral Reefs

Abstract: Herbivory plays a crucial role in structuring coral reef communities and in selecting for algal traits that deter feeding by herbivores. Recent studies have noted dramatic among-species variance in the susceptibility of herbivorous fishes to seaweed chemical and mineral (CaCO3) defenses, and these differences can translate into dramatic effects of herbivore diversity on the structure and...

Chemical Ecology of Red Tides and the Plankton

Seasonal blooms of the red tide dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis, can form almost monospecifically in the Gulf of Mexico with ecosystem-wide effects. K. brevis produces brevetoxins, polyketide natural products which act as potent neurotoxins in vertebrates, causing massive fish kills and poisoning humans through intoxicated shellfish. Red tides also have an economic impact, due to costs associated...

Natural Product Drug Discovery

Natural products have traditionally played an essential role in drug discovery. The majority of known natural product drugs, including penicillin, taxol, and morphine, came from terrestrial organisms. However, oceans cover nearly three quarters of the Earth and represent 90% of the biosphere. Unique marine life forms have evolved to produce a vast diversity of structurally distinct compounds.

Antimicrobial Chemical Defenses of Fijian Macroalgae

Coral reefs, providing millions in revenue to communities worldwide, are in crisis. Disease outbreaks are one factor contributing to reef decline. These infections have caused mass mortality of corals, seagrasses, algae, and other reef-dwellers. Even more alarming, disease outbreaks appear on the rise (Harvell et al., 1999; Harvell et al., 2004).