Ilsa B Kuffner, Ph.D.
As a research marine biologist for the Coastal and Marine Geology Program, I investigate the causes and effects of coral reef degradation. I explore local- to global-scale stressors on reefs, and experimentally determine how environmental variables such as sea-surface temperature, water quality, seawater chemistry, nuisance macroalgae, and ocean acidification affect coral growth, the community structure of reefs, and the process of reef building. My work informs resource managers about the mechanisms causing reef degradation and how management efforts may be improved to protect and restore degraded reefs. Please visit the USGS Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies (CREST) website for more information: http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/crest/.
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Zoology, Ph.D. Chair: Paul L. Jokiel, 1999
Bachelor of Arts, University of New Hampshire, Department of Zoology, Minor: Marine Biology, 1993
Research Marine Biologist, US Geological Survey, St. Petersburg Coastal & Marine Geology Science Center, 2002 to present
Faculty, School for Field Studies, Center for Marine Resource Studies, Turks & Caicos Islands, 2001 to 2002
Director, Forfar Field Station, Andros Island, Bahamas, 2000 to 2001
Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Guam Marine Laboratory, Post-doc advisor: Valerie J. Paul, 1999 to 2000
Science and Products
The specific objectives of this project are to identify and describe the processes that are important in determining rates of coral-reef construction. How quickly the skeletons of calcifying organisms accumulate to form massive barrier-reef structure is determined by processes of both construction (how fast organisms grow and reproduce) and destruction (how fast reefs break down by mechanical...
It is critical to start measuring calcification rates in a systematic way now, particularly at subtropical latitudes where conditions fluctuate seasonally, so that we can understand how dynamic ocean conditions affect calcifying organisms today and predict possible changes in the future. We established a calcification monitoring network in the Florida Keys and have been measuring calcification...
Coral reefs are massive, wave resistant structures found throughout the tropics, where they have long attracted attention for their beauty, ecological importance, and rich biological diversity. However, in recent years attention to these systems has focused on their downturn in health and the potential that they effectively could disappear within a century. Yet while many coral reefs have...
Quantifying uncertainty in Sr/Ca-based estimates of SST from the coral Orbicella faveolata
The strontium to calcium ratio (Sr/Ca) in aragonitic skeletons of massive corals provides a proxy for sea surface temperature (SST) that can be used to reconstruct paleoclimates across decades, centuries, and, potentially, millennia. Determining the reproducibility of Sr/Ca records among contemporaneous coral colonies from the same region is...Flannery, Jennifer A.; Richey, Julie N.; Toth, Lauren T.; Kuffner, Ilsa B.; Poore, Richard Z.
A 3,000‐year lag between the geological and ecological shutdown of Florida's coral reefs
The global‐scale degradation of coral reefs has reached a critical threshold wherein further declines threaten both ecological functionality and the persistence of reef structure. Geological records can provide valuable insights into the long‐term controls on reef development that may be key to solving the modern coral‐reef crisis. Our analyses of...Toth, Lauren T.; Kuffner, Ilsa B.; Stathakopoulos, Anastasios; Shinn, Eugene A.
Plasticity in skeletal characteristics of nursery-raised staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis
Staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, is a threatened species and the primary focus of western Atlantic reef restoration efforts to date. We compared linear extension, calcification rate, and skeletal density of nursery-raised A. cervicornis branches reared for 6 months either on blocks attached to substratum or hanging from...Kuffner, Ilsa B.; Bartels, Erich; Stathakopoulos, Anastasios; Enochs, Ian C.; Kolodziej, Graham; Toth, Lauren T.; Manzello, Derek P.
Experimental data comparing two coral grow-out methods in nursery-raised Acropora cervicornis
Staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, is a threatened species and the primary focus of western Atlantic reef-restoration efforts to date. As part of the USGS Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies project (http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/crest/), we investigated skeletal characteristics of nursery-grown staghorn coral reared using two commonly used grow-out...Kuffner, Ilsa B.; Bartels, Erich; Stathakopoulos, Anastasios; Enochs, Ian C.; Kolodziej, Graham; Toth, Lauren; Manzello, Derek P.
Fidelity of the Sr/Ca proxy in recording ocean temperature in the western Atlantic coral Siderastrea siderea
Massive corals provide a useful archive of environmental variability, but careful testing of geochemical proxies in corals is necessary to validate the relationship between each proxy and environmental parameter throughout the full range of conditions experienced by the recording organisms. Here we use samples from a coral-growth study to test the...Kuffner, Ilsa B.; Roberts, Kelsey E.; Flannery, Jennifer A.; Morrison, Jennifer M.; Richey, Julie N.
Underwater temperature on off-shore coral reefs of the Florida Keys, U.S.A.
The USGS Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies project (http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/crest/) provides science that helps resource managers tasked with the stewardship of coral reef resources. Coral reef organisms are very sensitive to high and low water-temperature extremes. It is critical to precisely know water temperatures experienced by corals and...Kuffner, Ilsa B.
Data for evaluating the Sr/Ca temperature proxy with in-situ temperature in the western Atlantic coral Siderastrea siderea
Massive corals are used as environmental recorders throughout the tropics and subtropics to study environmental variability during time periods preceding ocean-observing instrumentation. However, careful testing of paleoproxies is necessary to validate the environmental-proxy record throughout a range of conditions experienced by the recording...Kuffner, Ilsa B.; Roberts, Kelsey E.; Flannery, Jennifer A.; Morrison, Jennifer M.; Richey, Julie
Collection methods and descriptions of coral cores extracted from massive corals in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, U.S.A.
Cores from living coral colonies were collected from Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, U.S.A., to obtain skeletal records of past coral growth and allow geochemical reconstruction of environmental variables during the corals’ centuries-long lifespans. The samples were collected as part of the U.S. Geological Survey Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies...Weinzierl, Michael S.; Reich, Christopher D.; Hickey, T. Donald; Bartlett, Lucy A.; Kuffner, Ilsa B.
Coral cores collected in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, U.S.A.: Photographs and X-rays
Cores from living coral colonies were collected from Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, to obtain skeletal records of past coral growth and allow geochemical reconstruction of environmental variables during the corals’ centuries-long lifespans. The samples were collected as part of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies...Kuffner, Ilsa B.; Weinzierl, Michael S.; Reich, Christopher D.; Bartlett, Lucy A.; Flannery, Jennifer A.
The structure and composition of Holocene coral reefs in the Middle Florida Keys
The Florida Keys reef tract (FKRT) is the largest coral-reef ecosystem in the continental United States. The modern FKRT extends for 362 kilometers along the coast of South Florida from Dry Tortugas National Park in the southwest, through the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), to Fowey Rocks reef in Biscayne National Park in the...Toth, Lauren T.; Stathakopoulos, Anastasios; Kuffner, Ilsa B.
A geological perspective on the degradation and conservation of western Atlantic coral reefs
Continuing coral-reef degradation in the western Atlantic is resulting in loss of ecological and geologic functions of reefs. With the goal of assisting resource managers and stewards of reefs in setting and measuring progress toward realistic goals for coral-reef conservation and restoration, we examined reef degradation in this region from a...Kuffner, Ilsa B.; Toth, Lauren T.
Coral calcification and ocean acidification
Over 60 years ago, the discovery that light increased calcification in the coral plant-animal symbiosis triggered interest in explaining the phenomenon and understanding the mechanisms involved. Major findings along the way include the observation that carbon fixed by photosynthesis in the zooxanthellae is translocated to animal cells throughout...Jokiel, Paul L.; Jury, Christopher P.; Kuffner, Ilsa B.
Research Marine Biologist Ilsa Kuffner, Research Oceanographer Lauren Toth, and Oceanographer Anastasios Stathakopoulos will travel to Key Largo, FL, December 10 to 14 to attend "Reef Futures 2018: A Coral Restoration and Intervention-Science Symposium."
Scientists travel to Buck Island Reef National Monument to plan a new study and to assess hurricane impacts to the coral reefs surrounding Buck Island.