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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:University of Mississippi
  • Deborah J Gochfeld
  • (662) 915-6769
Award Date:12/04/2017
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 97,442
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 97,442
  • FY 2018=$97,442
Start Date:12/15/2017
End Date:11/30/2019
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:RAPID: Collaborative Research: Sponge resilience in the face of multiple stressors
Federal Award ID Number:1807807
DUNS ID:067713560
Parent DUNS ID:067713560
Program Officer:
  • Daniel Thornhill
  • (703) 292-0000

Awardee Location

Street:100 BARR HALL
Awardee Cong. District:01

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Mississippi
Cong. District:01

Abstract at Time of Award

Over the past several decades, coral reefs worldwide have undergone a transition from being dominated by the corals themselves to being dominated by sponges or algae. The causes of these changes are complex, but they include both natural stressors, such as diseases and hurricanes, and impacts from human activities, such as coastal development and climate change. There are over 600 species of sponges on Caribbean coral reefs, and they serve many important ecological roles, including nutrient cycling, providing food and shelter for other reef animals, and producing a tremendous diversity of chemical compounds that are important for controlling species interactions on the reef, and may serve as potential new drugs. In spite of their importance on coral reefs, there are many aspects of sponge biology that remain unknown, including how they respond to different types of stressors. Coral reefs in St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, are exposed to different levels of man-made stressors, depending upon their proximity to coastal development, and the sponge assemblages on these reefs also vary with levels of human impacts. In September 2017, St. Thomas was devastated by two Category 5 hurricanes in a row. Since, unlike corals, virtually nothing is known about what happens to sponge communities in the aftermath of hurricanes, the research team will use a combination of field ecology and population genetics approaches to determine how sponge communities respond and recover from these devastating storms and whether prior exposure to land-based stressors affects their recovery. Researchers at the Universities of Mississippi, Alabama and the Virgin Islands will participate in this RAPID project, and will provide training opportunities for students and postdoctoral researchers, especially from underrepresented groups. Information will be provided to resource managers in the Virgin Islands, along with outreach programs to community groups in St. Thomas. The goal of this project is to assess the impacts of single (e.g., hurricanes) versus multiple (e.g., hurricanes and land-based sources of pollution) stressors on the resilience, recovery, and recruitment of sponge communities in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. Given the growing dominance of sponges on coral reefs worldwide, understanding the responses of sponges to natural and anthropogenic stressors is increasingly important. The investigators will leverage multiple years of data on sponge assemblages from several sites around the island of St. Thomas that varied in their levels of exposure to local land-based stressors prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and evaluate changes to these diverse assemblages over time, beginning within 3 months of these devastating storms. Using a combination of natural and experimentally cleared plots, the investigators will assess the progress of sponge succession and whether the presence of algae interferes with sponge recruitment and recovery. Subsamples of recruits and nearby conspecifics will be collected to evaluate population genetic diversity and potential sources of new individuals. The data resulting from this project will provide critical insights into sponge resilience in response to hurricanes at sites previously exposed to land-based stressors, the initiation of succession within sponge communities, potential predictors of successional trajectory, and genetic diversity within sponge populations following a storm event. This information will help identify factors that inhibit coral recovery and potential approaches to enhance resilience of coral reefs.

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