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Christina Kellogg, SPCMSC Research Microbiologist, will conduct fieldwork in Key Largo/Tavernier, Florida Keys, visiting sentinel sites that experienced mass mortality events of Diadema antillarum in 2022 to determine if the causative parasite can still be detected. 

Image of a single-celled organism with small bright spots and thin hairlike structures against a dark green background.
The marine scuticociliate responsible for the mass die-off of Diadema antillarum in 2022. 

Dr. Kellogg will screen large volumes of water, swabs from benthic invertebrates, and swabs from fishes for the presence of the scuticociliate DaScPc (Diadema antillarum Scuticociliatosis Philaster clade). Diadema antillarum, the long-spined sea urchin, is an ecologically important species in Caribbean coral reef habitats where it controls algal growth and coverage and helps keep reef surfaces clear for corals to grow and settle. This species of urchin experienced mass mortality from an unknown cause in the early 1980s, and again in 2022 from a scuticociliate. The scuticociliate has spread to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and Gulf of Oman, continuing to cause urchin mortality. Determining whether the parasite is still present in the Keys after 2 years is important for reef managers who are conducting coral restoration and want to include hatchery-raised Diadema as part of their strategy.

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