Lexie has earned her Ph.D. in Integrative Biology for her outstanding research on focused on assessing the population genetic structure of the great star coral, Montastraea cavernosa, and their algal symbiont communities across shallow and upper-mesophotic reefs throughout the Tropical Western Atlantic. She combined field-based approaches including ROV, scuba, and technical diving surveys and sample collection with lab-based molecular techniques including microsatellites, RADseq SNP genotyping, and ITS2 sequencing approaches to expand our knowledge of the population dynamics of M. cavernosa and their algal symbiont assemblages. Her work characterized the fine-scale genetic structure of this species in Flower Garden Banks, Cuba, Mexico, and the Florida Keys. Lexie begins her NOAA Knauss Fellowship in early 2023 and will remain involved with the Voss Lab and FAU Harbor Branch in ongoing collaborations and technical diving missions.
Ashley earned her M.S. in Marine Science and Oceanography and focused on the environmental drivers of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in Southeast Florida. Her time series experiments demonstrated that unlike other coral diseases, nutrient amendments in Southeast Florida did not exacerbate coral tissue loss or disease spread. These surprising results suggest that other factors such as temperature or host susceptibility may play more critical roles in driving SCTLD dynamics. Ashley has been hired as a laboratory technician and will continue to lead and support coral disease research in south Florida and mesophotic coral exploration and characterization through our technical diving team.