Biology Student and Professor Present Research in Paris
– Beth Lorence ‘08
– Assistant Professor James Cervino, PhD
Beth Lorence, ‘08, presented research findings with Assistant Professor James Cervino, PhD, at the prestigious Vibrio 2007 Conference held at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France this December.
Biology major Lorence and Assistant Professor Cervino have been researching the effects of global warming and rising ocean/sea temperatures on coral reefs and marine shell-fish for the past two years. Notably, the Virbio genus of bacteria — that includes V. cholerae, the cause of cholera in humans — which is central to their research, was the sole focus of the three-day conference.
As part of a team of researchers, Lorence and Cervino presented “Identification of a consortium of closely related Vibrio species and the links between thermal stress, coral reef and shell-fish diseases.” The co-authors of the presentation are J. M. Cervino (Pace); E. A. Lorence (Pace); F. L. Thompson (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil); Bruno Gómez-Gil (Mazatlan Unit for Aquaculture, Mazatlan, Mexico); T. J. Goreau (University of South Carolina, Aiken, SC ); G.W. Smith (Global Coral Reef Alliance, Cambridge, MA); and R. L. Hayes (Howard University, Washington, DC).
Research that ties to global warming
Lorence explains. “We are currently investigating the effects of increasing sea surface temperatures on corals, coral pathogens and shell-fish diseases. More specifically, we have shown that Caribbean Yellow Band Disease (YBD) pathogens are now found infecting Indo-Pacific corals using analysis of DNA.”
“This research shows that there is a potential link between marine shell-fish pathogens and tropical corals from both Pacific and Caribbean Oceans. Once corals and shell-fish become infected, the higher temperatures trigger the production of dangerous toxins that may be responsible for causing mass die offs of coral reefs that are on the verge of extinction due to continued global warming,” Cervino predicts. Future research will involve isolating the exact group of shell-fish toxins, and testing them on the corals found dying of vibrionic diseases.
Gaining professional presentation experience
“It was an unbelievable experience! I met some of the world’s most accomplished scientists, and was able to collaborate with them and ask questions,” Lorence says. “I feel so lucky to be involved in this research. One of my objectives is to educate people on the impact that global warming has on both corals and marine pathogens. By relating these Vibrio bacteria, unknown to many people, to the shellfish pathogens that infect humans, we might be able to stir up some attention.”
According to the conference Web site, Vibrio 2007 provided a forum for discussion of the present knowledge on Vibrio as well as to identify the main research needs for future projects. Vibrionic Yellow Band Disease (YBD) has been responsible for outbreaks in different types of reef building corals worldwide.
Lorence graduates this year, and plans on attending graduate school. “Right now, my first choice is the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC.”