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USGS scientists participate and accept leadership roles during Coral Disease Technical Workshop

During the annual multi-agency Coral Disease Technical Workshop, which convened to review the status of the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) outbreak in Florida and determine key goals for research and intervention activities for the coming year, USGS scientists actively participated and took on leadership roles.

A brain coral infected with Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease
A brain coral infected with Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in April 2018. Photo credit: Ilsa Kuffner, USGS

To improve communication within the large Research and Epidemiology Team, subgroups were created on the topics Pathogen Identification, Transmission, Histopathology, and Holobiont Characterization/Response. Christina Kellogg (USGS SPCMSC) will coordinate the Pathogen ID subgroup and the soon-to-be-hired pathology postdoctoral fellow (USGS National Wildlife Heath Center) was volunteered as a coordinator for the Histopathology subgroup. Kellogg also designed an experiment to resolve whether the causative agent is bacterial or viral which was voted one of the top two research priorities moving forward. Ilsa Kuffner (USGS SPCMSC) is now participating in the Management Team and Disease Advisory Council calls as a coral-reef research science expert and to keep them informed on activities/products of the Coral Restoration Consortium (she serves on the CRC Steering Committee). Katie Richgels and Katrina Alger (USGS National Wildlife Heath Center) provided insights based on terrestrial disease outbreaks and will conduct a decision-support workshop later in the year for the Coral Disease Response Team.

An outbreak of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) has been causing high mortality in roughly half of Florida’s 45 stony coral species, including key reef building species and five species listed pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. This disease is impacting nearly the entire Florida reef tract from north of Martin County to Key West. This disease also appears to be spreading throughout the Caribbean including the US Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Mexico, St. Maartin, Dominican Republic, and Turks & Caicos.

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Partners and stakeholders include: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, NOAA, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida SeaGrant, Smithsonian, Mote Marine Laboratory, Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA), National Park Service (Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne National Park), USFWS National Wildlife Refuges (Great White Heron NWR, Key West NWR), Nova Southeastern University, The Nature Conservancy-Florida Reef Resilience Program, University of the Virgin Islands, managers and end-users of coral ecosystems of the United States

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