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The Coral Triangle contains the world’s most biologically diverse, most threatened and least studied marine ecosystems. The goal of the National Science Foundation funded PIRE: Understanding marine biodiversity along geographic and anthropogenic stress gradients is to build an interdisciplinary, international collaboration to advance biodiversity research within the Coral Triangle and surrounding coral reefs systems. In addition to the scientific goals, we are developing an educational framework that builds local scientific capacity while training U.S. post doctoral scholars, graduate and undergraduate students to engage in sustained biodiversity research in the world’s most diverse marine environments.

Coral Reef Biodiversity

This study uses Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) to measure marine biodiversity gradients. ARMS are standardized (minimizing investigator bias), highly efficient, and statistically robust platforms. We primarily employ metagenomics, DNA barcoding and metabolomics to analyze the ARMS. Some of the main questions to be answered are:

  1. Do visual surveys of conspicuous groups like fish, corals, and snails (the subjects of traditional surveys) reliably capture biodiversity patterns for the groups that comprise the vast majority of marine biodiversity like viruses, microbes, protists and smaller animals?
  2. Does marine biodiversity vary predictably as a function anthropogenic stress?

Comparisons of the spatial patterning of species across regions of high, medium, and low diversity will determine whether high regional diversity occurs via greater densities of species in single locations or greater taxonomic turnover across biogeographic, environmental, and human impact gradients. Combined, the results will dramatically improve our understanding of the processes shaping the distribution of marine biodiversity in the Coral Triangle, and how biodiversity is impacted by anthropogenic stress, providing a scientific foundation to support the sustainability goals.


Coral Reef Biodiversity

Human Diversity

This project uses our research objectives as the platform for an ambitious, collaborative and integrative educational curriculum, including 1) Biodiversity Inventories, 2) Microbial Diversity, 3) Metagenomic Approaches to Diversity, and 4) Phylogenetic Analysis. While designed to provide a strong foundation in modern biodiversity science and conservation for U.S. and Coral Triangle participants, these courses also serve as a mechanism to 1) engage U.S. faculty, postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students in biodiversity research in Indonesia, 2) develop a new cohort of US scientists with the cultural, linguistic, and scientific networks to conduct research in Indonesia, 3) promote scientific capacity building within Indonesia, and 4) promote sustained research collaboration between U.S. and foreign scientists. The curriculum includes courses spanning three participating US universities. Additionally, we are providing REU experience each year for 4 undergraduate students from under-represented minority groups who will be recruited from across the U.S. as part of The Diversity Project.


Human Diversity

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Rohwer Laboratory, San Diego State University.

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Forest Rohwer, PhD
SDSU, Biology

Paul Barber, PhD
UCLA, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology