Humanities and Sciences
I am Lupita Ruiz-Jones. My area of research is marine biology, with a focus on reef-building corals. My research goal is to investigate the link between animal physiology and the environment. In our changing world it is critical to understand the degree to which environmental variables affect physiology and how sensitivity to specific stressors is manifested. This information is essential for conservation managers and policy makers who seek to protect the environment. Currently I am part of a research group focusing on coral reefs—critical marine ecosystems that are threatened by climate change, over-fishing, and local pollution. We seek to understand the underlying physiology that mediates a coral’s response to diverse environmental conditions. For my dissertation, I am studying two aspects of coral biology: gene expression (which proteins are made and when) and growth by calcification. I am measuring these two physiological parameters in tabletop corals that live in a lagoon reef with high environmental variability. My field site in American Samoa is characterized by daily swings in pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen concentrations. One of my goals is to understand if this daily variability triggers a stress response in corals by examining gene-expression patterns during a period where the environment changes through time due to the tide. My second goal is to understand if the amplitude of daily pH fluctuations and environmental variability influence calcification by measuring coral growth rates during consecutive one-week periods with different environmental conditions caused by the tide. Understanding how sensitive corals are to environmental variability they already experience will contribute to our knowledge of coral physiology in a changing environment.