Area(s) of Expertise
- Evolutionary Ecology, Genetics and Speciation
Prof. Vollmer studies the evolutionary ecology of marine organisms. Research in his laboratory focuses primarily on the reef-corals, and specifically, how evolution shapes the genetic architecture of coral populations and species. He primarily studies organisms are the Caribbean Acropora corals [common name, Staghorn and Elkhorn coral], which have been decimated by White Band Disease (WBD) over the past thirty years and are now listed as threatened on the US Endangered Species Act. His lab has shown that 6 percent or more of staghorn corals are naturally resistant to WBD. This first evidence of disease resistance in tropical reef corals demonstrates that corals may be more resilient than thought to rising disease epidemics and other stressors brought on by global climate change. Current research in the lab is focused on identifying the genetic bases of coral innate immunity, pathogen recognition, and host resistance, and furthering our knowledge about the WBD pathogen and the ecological factors driving WBD outbreaks.