What is killing Caribbean corals? Investigating a devastating coral disease.

Sarah Gignoux-Wolfsohn | Felicia Aronson

Northeastern University

$6,680Next Goal
This project was funded on:
10 May 2014
If we understand what is damaging coral reefs, we can save them. White band disease is responsible for destroying up to 95% of two threatened reef-building coral species in the Caribbean. In spite of the devastating effects of the disease, a pathogen has not been identified. We aim to identify the cause of white band disease using infection experiments in order to develop methods of controlling disease outbreaks.


Budget Overview

These funds will allow us to go to Bocas del Toro, Panama and conduct a research trip. The trip will include experiments in the wet lab and collection of samples that will allow us to isolate a white band disease pathogen. The funds will cover our flights down to panama as well as housing and lab expenses while at STRI. Lab work will include preservation of coral samples at various time points over the course of infection with white band disease.

Meet the Researcher


Sarah Gignoux-Wolfsohn
From a childhood spent in tidepools in Maine to studying the health of the Connecticut river and learning genetic techniques as an undergraduate, many aspects of my life have prepared me for this project. I enjoy combining ecological studies with cutting edge genetic techniques. Working in the Caribbean, I have witnessed the decline of coral reefs and how important these reefs are for both local inhabitants and visitors. I believe strongly that more research needs to be done on why these ecosystems are dying and how we can help prevent their extinction.

Felicia Aronson
Growing up SCUBA diving in the Caribbean I spent hours observing and identifying any creature that crawled, swam, flew or hopped across my path. My love of marine ecology has taken me to complete field seasons from Maine to Malaysia to French Polynesia and ultimately back to the coral reefs of Panama. Together we can help save these important ecosystems.

Endorsed by


Sarah and Felicia's work on the disease ecology of staghorn and elkhorn corals will be money well-spent. The species...See more

Coral Reef Expert at Northeastern University


Our paper on white band disease transmission

Our paper on the bacterial nature of white band disease

Acropora cervicornis on the endangered species list
The Vollmer Lab at Northeastern University

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

White band disease infected colony of Acropora palmata

White band disease on Acropora cervicornis

Getting back on the boat after a dive!

A fragment of white band disease infected Acropora cervicornis in the lab ready for preservation in DNA buffer.

Looking for snails for an experiment.

Infection experiment setup in the wetlab at STRI.

White band disease on Acorpora palmata.

Project Backers

JoeSullylilianamadrigal2deborahyaffeIanFisherggignouxwipeoutjasKBrotmanFriendofPanamajenniferdavidson75491NSellingNigelonesarahyurowyaffefamGigimargarettawaltonSarahStrongcaroldpalmerDavidwolfsohnljosephsJaNoDevjoecirincionekgweismanheckstephenchrisgignouxhwerlen1LewickijanineledetJJGMargieMcAboyjayyurowwalmsaradambazinetsransongaleriakeldrenamyostroffbpk24Weismanjejgaltjenetteskybwolfson617BarrieadrianstierEkalterjgAllison Lewis and Drew WhamPeterPrinsenKatewheelerCindy WuKFranklinjohnsonphimergelfunskychollumdanieljinichSarahisaacelizagouvdeloeb2JeffErikHolumasnyderkwigginDenny LuanclareshepherdkarenwellikoffdefalcoSscyphersccKDugganrmartorana3lannymiriamleshinkatyneasKathleenmooretd531AvaMontyTheaIsrael Del Toromarkalotforoughmofidjweinrott