Sydney Birch NSF Research

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My research will investigate how changes in microbial communities influence larval settlement decisions that ultimately determine population structure and impact community dynamics in benthic marine communities. I will examine the economically costly biofouling marine cnidarian Ectopleura crocea and its actinula larva. To do this, I will take an integrative approach that combines population genetics, larval experiments, metagenomics, and microbial biology to assess if the larval settlement decision is consistent with local adaptation, and how changes in microbial communities due to climate change will impact larval settlement of marine fouling communities.

(A) Adult Ectopleura colonies biofouling an aquaculture structure and (B) the Actinula Larva.