Marine Holobiomics Group
Head: AR Dr. Maren Ziegler
Coral reefs belong to the most diverse ecosystems on this planet, but they also belong to those that are most vulnerable to anthropogenic (man-made) climate change and coastal pollution. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the complex world of hermatypic corals, which build the foundation of coral reef ecosystems. Hermatypic corals are metaorganisms (holobionts) composed of a coral animal that hosts a variety of microbial symbionts, including photosynthetic dinoflagellates (Symbiodiniaceae) and bacteria. In a healthy holobiont, the symbiont compartments maintain an equilibrium. When this equilibrium is disturbed, the coral holobiont becomes prone to disease and bleaching that, in the worst case, may entail the death of the coral host.
The Marine Holobiomics Lab is interested in how the rapidly changing environment of the Anthropocene shapes the coral holobiont composition, and in turn how changes in the coral holobiont composition shape the organismal response to a rapidly changing environment. We study these interactions on the coral colony or holobiont level and at the level of reefscapes, in which corals together with other organisms comprise the reef holobiome. Our lab runs an experimental coral aquarium facility, where we apply a wide range of research tools from molecular and microbial ecology, ecophysiology, and genomics to study acclimatization and adaptation processes.