• I am originally from Missouri. During high school I had the opportunity to travel to Australia and dive on the Great Barrier Reef. I was fascinated by the abundance of animals and the complex interactions occurring. I continued to develop a strong interest in marine biology during undergraduate work at Texas A&M University at Galveston and determined that I wanted to make a career studying marine ecosystems.

    During graduate work at Florida Atlantic University and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, I began working with invertebrate symbiotic relationships. This research further developed during my doctoral and post-doctoral work at the University of Georgia and Penn State University where I studied coral physiology, microbial diversity of prokaryotes and eukaryotes associated with corals, and the effects of climate change on coral reef ecosystems. I have worked on coral reefs throughout the Caribbean and Pacific and continue to study ecology, physiology, and evolution of these important ecosystems.
  • Selected Publications

    Academic Article

    Year Title Altmetric
    2016 Life after cold death: Reef coral and coral reef responses to the 2010 cold water anomaly in the Florida KeysEcosphere.  7. 2016
    2016 Shifting white pox aetiologies affecting Acropora palmata in the Florida keys, 1994-2014Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences.  371. 2016
    2016 Spectral reflectance of palauan reef-building coral with different symbionts in response to elevated temperatureRemote Sensing.  8. 2016
    2015 Spatial homogeneity of bacterial communities associated with the surface mucus layer of the reef-building coral acropora palmataPLoS ONE.  10. 2015
    2015 Spatially distinct and regionally endemic Symbiodinium assemblages in the threatened Caribbean reef-building coral Orbicella faveolataCoral Reefs.  34:535-547. 2015
    2015 Systematic analysis of white pox disease in Acropora palmata of the Florida keys and role of Serratia marcescensApplied and Environmental Microbiology.  81:4451-4457. 2015
    2014 Community dynamics and physiology of Symbiodinium spp. before, during, and after a coral bleaching eventLimnology and Oceanography.  59:788-797. 2014
    2013 Ubiquitous associations and a peak fall prevalence between apicomplexan symbionts and reef corals in Florida and the BahamasCoral Reefs.  32:847-858. 2013
    2011 A connection between colony biomass and death in Caribbean reef-building coralsPLoS ONE.  6. 2011
    2011 Catastrophic mortality on inshore coral reefs of the Florida Keys due to severe low-temperature stressGlobal Change Biology.  17. 2011
    2010 Host hybridization alters specificity of cnidarian-dinoflagellate associationsMarine Ecology Progress Series.  420:113-123. 2010
    2010 Comparative analyses of amplicon migration behavior in differing denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) systemsCoral Reefs.  29:83-91. 2010
    2008 Correspondence between cold tolerance and temperate biogeography in a western Atlantic Symbiodinium (Dinophyta) lineageJournal of Phycology.  44:1126-1135. 2008
    2008 A microsampling method for genotyping coral symbiontsCoral Reefs.  27:289-293. 2008
    2006 A comparison of the thermal bleaching responses of the zoanthid Palythoa caribaeorum from three geographically different regions in south FloridaJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.  335:266-276. 2006
    2006 Chronic parrotfish grazing impedes coral recovery after bleachingCoral Reefs.  25:361-368. 2006
    2006 Multi-year, seasonal genotypic surveys of coral-algal symbioses reveal prevalent stability or post-bleaching reversionMarine Biology.  148:711-722. 2006

    Research Overview

  • My lab studies invertebrate physiology and symbiotic relationships that can ultimately have ecosystem-wide impacts. Our research utilizes physiological and molecular techniques to identify ecological patterns associated with marine invertebrates and algae. Current projects focus on three main themes:

    marine invertebrate physiology and ecology during environmental perturbation,
    carbon and nutrient transfer in marine organisms, and
    diversity and function of microbial symbionts.

    Invertebrate Ecology and Physiology During Environmental Perturbation

    I am an integrative biologist that studies nearshore ecology and ecological physiology. I strive to push forward our basic understanding of marine ecology, evolution, and symbioses between invertebrates and their microbial partners. I have focused on teasing apart mechanisms that allow marine organisms to endure environmental perturbation and potentially drive acclimatization and adaptation to global climate change. To investigate organismal traits that result in impaired physiology and symbiotic disequilibrium, I have conducted field experiments and laboratory manipulations that combine ecological observations with molecular and physiological methods on marine invertebrates from Florida, Bahamas, Belize, Mexico, Curaçao, Panama, Virgin Islands, Philippines, Australia, and Palau.

    Stable Isotope Analysis

    When combined with physiological studies, stable isotopes are valuable to investigate potential physiological implications of niche partitioning and environmental perturbation. Differences in δ13C values between coral tissue and algal symbionts are broadly diagnostic of the relative amounts of photosynthesis and heterotrophy contributing to the carbon pool in corals. I have carefully developed experimental protocols using 13C enriched seawater to investigate inorganic carbon uptake and biological transfer of organic carbon to three biological compartments of reef-building corals (Symbiodinium, host tissue, and CaCO3 deposition).

    Nutrient enrichment (caused by sewage pollution) is contributing to the collapse coral reef ecosystems and has been linked to algal blooms and coral disease. Stable N isotope ratios (δ15N) have been successfully used in ecosystem studies to monitor anthropogenic nitrogen sources. To date, there is little regulation of sewage generated by tourists; therefore, resorts typically use underground injection into the coastal aquifer to dispose of wastewater. We feel that this additional stressor may pose alarming consequences for coral reef ecosystems that are already critically threatened by numerous environmental stressors (i.e., warm-water bleaching, coral diseases, removal of grazers, and ocean acidification).

    Diversity of Microbial Symbionts Associated with Invertebrates

    Symbiodinium spp. are highly diverse and can occur in symbiosis with mollusks, sponges, flatworms, protists, some ciliates, and cnidarians (including reef-building corals). Understanding the ecology and evolution of Symbiodinium diversity is important for predicting corals’ environmental susceptibility to perturbation.

    Corals metabolize simple sugars that are supplied by Symbiodinium and are converted into complex carbohydrates, lipids, and released as exogenous mucus. This mucus creates a “carbon-rich” layer between the coral and the surrounding water and is colonized by hundreds of millions of microbes per square centimeter. Research investigating microbial communities of the coral mucus layer have shown a species-specific nature of coral-microbial assemblages. Furthermore, disturbance (natural or experimental) of the mucus-associated microbiota has been shown to result in coral mortality. Coral lack an adaptive immune system, and mucus-associated microbiota play an important role in coral immunity and disease resistance. I am interested in connecting links between physiology, ecology, and environmental perturbation that influences microbial associations at different functional levels.

    Coral Reefs, Symbiosis, Marine Invertebrate Ecology and Physiology, Ecological Impacts of Climate Change, Microbial Diversity
  • Education And Training

  • Doctor of Science or Mathematics in Ecology, University of Georgia 2010
  • Master of Sciences or Mathematics in Biology, Florida Atlantic University 2003
  • Bachelor of Science or Mathematics in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography, Texas A&M University System : Galveston 2000
  • Full Name

  • Dustin Kemp