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SPCMSC Research scientists James Evans and Christina Kellogg and colleagues publish a new paper, “Combining tangential flow filtration and size fractionation of mesocosm water as a method for the investigation of waterborne coral diseases” in the journal Biology Methods and Protocols.

Splashes of light and long, thin, lines of light contrast against a dark background
An epiflourescence microscopy image reveals a diversity of microorganisms associated with a single diseased coral mesocosm.

Disease is a major contributor to the decline of coral reefs globally. Although numerous coral diseases are recognized today, the causative agents behind these diseases have been established for very few. Traditional investigative approaches using coral mucus or tissue can be confounded by the complex microbial communities that exist naturally in corals, creating “background noise” that can make identification of a pathogen difficult. This paper presents an alternative method to investigating waterborne coral disease that uses a combination of mesocosms, tangential flow filtration, and size fractionation to overcome some of these challenges. The method was able to reveal bacterial indicators of stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) in a pilot dataset, demonstrating an effective approach to investigating waterborne coral diseases and a technique that may help researchers more quickly identify coral pathogens. Corals used in this study were collected from the Florida Keys.

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