Ph.D. in Biology

The Pennsylvania State University, United States. 2016-2022

Dissertation: “Light availability along depth gradients: a key driver of niche partitioning and biodiversity patterns in reef building corals”.

Committee: Roberto Iglesias-Prieto, Mónica Medina, Todd LaJeunesse, Jonathan Lynch


In my dissertation, I  studied the effects of the physical interaction between light, the water column and corals at multiple levels of biological organization, from individuals and populations to reef coral communities. I considered physical and physiological principles that govern the vertical distribution of light in the water column and the photosynthetic activity of primary producers, including the symbiotic algae of corals. Some of my research was focused on Orbicella spp. because of the ecological, morphological and physiological traits that characterize this species complex. In the first chapter, I tested the predictions of the species-energy hypothesis for explaining biodiversity patterns in symbiotic coral communities across depth gradients. In the second chapter, I explored the physiological and ecological consequences of the water optical properties degradation associated with anthropogenic pollution on reef corals. And lastly, in the third chapter, I studied the physiological strategies and photoacclimation potential leading to niche partitioning driven by light gradients in sibling species of corals.

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