Coral Reseach; Opinion's needed!


New member
Hey all! I am currently trying to design an experiment for my senior reseach in biology. And would like to run a very premature thing by everyone to get a feel for what others think about the research. What I would like to do is set up a few tanks and test the effects of African Dust on the health of corals on a small scale. We all know that African Dust potentially plays a part in the desctruction of the coral reef's in the Bahama's and elsewhere. Reason for the research is to test whether or not similar results can be seen on a small scale in an aquarium.

Like I said, this is a very premature thought. I started today discussing this topic with a few professors. I attend the University of South Carolina - Aiken and we have a fairly well know professor that works with coral and diseases, Garrett Smith. He will be helping me design the experiment and to see whether this would be something of interest and pheasable.

So far my main interest is to test the effects on acros, monti's and possibly one other thing. If you have any suggestions of things that I could keep in mind or some other things to look at while doing the experiment let me know! All the help I can get for this the better it will come out! Any and all feedback is welcome! Thanks!


Premium Member
Where would you get the "African dust". (I know Africa lol) But what kind of problems is the dust thought to cause? Is there something in the dust specifically? Would you also be doing samples on the dust to see what it contains?


Premium Member
The main problem is that the dust carries spores of Aspergillus which is a fungus that affects gorgonians. It's also rich in nutrients that could potentially fuel algae blooms, though I don't know that this has ever been demonstrated to occur on reefs.

The main issues I see with the experiment are finding a source of African dust, particularly with fungal spores, and then infecting genera that aren't known to naturally be infected (and species that don't even occur in the Atlantic). Even if you manage to do it, what does that tell us about what's occurring in nature?


New member
I would agree with greenbean on everything he has stated above. It might be better to consider something a bit more relevant. While I was staying in Florida for my spring break trip, there was a group of researchers studying the effects of mammal fecal bacteria (human fecal bacteria in particular) on corals - specifically measuring the response of zooxanthellae. It was extremely interesting subject matter (at least to me), and the results were quite surprising. They basically took samples directly from mammal feces as well as from polluted areas in the Florida Keys and then ran bacterial cultures. They then used these cultures to infect coral tissue and subsequently measured the reaction type/rates of the healthy coral tissue to the infectious agent. I wish I could have stuck around a bit longer to see more of their results. Anyway, it's just an idea to help get you thinking; You'll probably want to do something original though.

Actually, would there not be a way to isolate the strains of fungi from the African dust and then culture them? It might be more relevant to isolate these fungi completely from the dust in order to measure reaction to solely the fungi. That way you could perform your research with a more limited stream of variables to measure and consider when analyzing your results. As greenbean said, you would want to use a coral genus that is known to be prone to fungal infections or is documented to be specifically affected by African dust. Otherwise, you would basically be wasting your time and resources.