CSETAC would like to recognize the student presentation winners from our 2017 Annual Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina. Erik Andersson, a student at the College of Charleston and the 2nd place platform presentation winner, shares how he has turned his hobby of maintaining home aquariums into a course of study for his Master's thesis on Hawaiian coral reefs.
Thanks to numerous childhood visits to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, I grew up loving aquariums - to this day maintaining home aquariums is one of my favorite hobbies. Therefore, it was no surprise that I ended up studying aquatic organisms. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology, I came to the College of Charleston where I have spent the past two years working towards earning my master’s degree in marine biology.
For my master’s thesis research, I have worked to characterize coral growth anomalies (a tumor-like coral disease) in the finger coral Porites compressa collected from Hawaii. To accomplish this, I have utilized mass spectrometry to compare the trace metals that are present in the skeletons of diseased and healthy corals. I have also utilized an analytical instrument called nuclear magnetic resonance to compare the metabolism of diseased and healthy corals. We hope these two approaches will combine to provide novel and diverse insight into the disease that may ultimately lead closer to discovering its pathology.
As for my broader research interests, I am generally interested in coral biology, coral reef ecology, and ultimately coral reef conservation. Specifically, I am interested in asking questions related to coral disease, physiology, and stress response – a further understanding of these processes in corals will aid conservation organizations such as the Coral Restoration Foundation in the Florida Keys with their efforts to manage and conserve coral reef ecosystems.