Current Research

Changing climates and ongoing anthropogenic habitat modifications threaten natural ecosystems worldwide. In response to these threats, a species has four choices: i) remain in the natal habitat but suffer reduced fitness, ii) acclimate to current conditions by modifying their physiologies, iii) adapt to the local environment through natural selection on standing genetic variation, or iv) disperse to new, more favorable environments. Research in my lab studies the potential roles of acclimation, adaptation, and dispersal in an organism’s response to rapid climate change.

Understanding how symbioses are maintained is fundamental as climate change disrupts symbiotic relationships worldwide. The coral–Symbiodinium symbiosis is essential and serves as the cornerstone for the entire reef ecosystem. Both symbiotic partners exhibit physiological stress responses when exposed to climate-associated stressors; however, Symbiodinium have been implicated as the ‘weak link’ in dysbiosis. Conversely, several lines of evidence suggest that only the host’s transcriptome exhibits a stress response, suggesting that coral hosts might actively control the symbiont’s environment and eventually facilitate dysbiosis. One major avenue of research in my lab addresses how coral hosts regulate their symbiont’s environment.

Range shifts in corals have been observed in response to ongoing global warming. In collaboration with scientists from Japan, we are using genomics and a series of physiological experiments to characterize range expansion populations of both coral hosts and their algal symbionts to better understand how these populations persist along a range front.

Selected Publications

  • Davies SW, Marchetti A, Ries, JB and KD Castillo (in press) Thermal and pCO2 stress elicit divergent transcriptomic responses in a resilient coral. Frontiers in Marine Science FMARS-02-00062.
  • Davies SW, Wham D, Kanke MR and MV Matz. (in review) Ecological factors rather than barriers to dispersal shape genetic structure of algal symbionts in horizontally-transmitting corals. Molecular Ecology MEC-16-0459. Biorxiv.
  • Dixon G, Davies SW, Aglyamova GA, Meyer E, Bay LK and MV Matz. (2015) Genomic determinants of coral heat tolerance across latitudes. Science 348:6242 1460-1462.
  • Davies SW, Scarpino SV, Pongwarin T, Scott J and MV Matz. (2015) Estimating trait heritability in highly fecund species. G3 Genes Genomes Genetics g3.115.020701.
  • Davies SW, Treml E, Kenkel CD and MV Matz. (2015) Exploring the role of Micronesian islands in the maintenance of coral genetic diversity in the Pacific Ocean. Molecular Ecology 24: 70-82.
  • Davies SW, Meyer E, Guermond S and MV Matz. (2014) A cross-ocean comparison of settlement cue specificity in reef-building corals. PeerJ 2:e333.
  • Davies SW, Matz MV and PD Vize. (2013) Ecological complexity of coral recruitment processes: Effect of herbivores on coral recruitment and growth depends upon substrate properties and coral species. PLoS ONE 8(9): e72830.
  • Davies SW, Rahman M, Meyer E, Green EA, Buschizzo M, Medina, M and MV Matz. (2013) Novel polymorphic microsatellite loci for the endangered Caribbean star coral, Montastrea faveolata. Marine Biodiversity 43(2): 167-172.

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