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Andrea GomezAndrea Gomez is a doctoral candidate in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Program, under the guidance of Dr. Kyle McDonald. Born and raised in California, she has always loved the ocean and marine animals. She earned her B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she volunteered for Dr. Terrie William’s Marine Mammal Physiology Lab, and became an avid cold-water scuba diver. She then had an exciting internship studying great white sharks in South Africa, which made her realize that she definitely gets seasick, but also that she wanted to pursue a career in research and fieldwork. She decided to move to New York City six years ago to pursue a M.S. in Biology from The City College of New York, studying Caribbean coral’s fluorescence and reflectance signatures.

Since she really enjoyed studying corals and remote sensing for her Master’s research, she decided to continue on towards a Ph.D. Her current dissertation research activities involve a combination of remote sensing and biology to better understand and protect the coral reefs in La Parguera, Puerto Rico. While covering less than one percent of the sea floor, coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth. Tragically, because of climate change-driven rising sea temperatures, most of the world’s reefs are threatened and in decline. For the coral reefs of Puerto Rico, the 2017 hurricane season was particularly devastating. Scientists know that reefs can recover from stress, but recovery is often non-uniform and depends on the duration of the stress. It has been hypothesized that coral-algae symbiont community dynamics and/or environmental variables may relate to spatial irregularities in stress recovery. Satellite sea surface temperature (SST) data has been used as a proxy to estimate the temperature at the depth of the corals, but there are few validation studies to assess if the satellite SST is actually representative of the temperature regime surrounding coral reefs. Andrea’s dissertation research investigates the relationship between NOAA Coral Reef Watch’s (CRW) 5km satellite-based SST product and in situ temperature loggers we deployed at Cayo Enrique, Cayo Mario, San Cristobal, and Margarita Reef, in La Parguera, Puerto Rico, and seeks to characterize the seasonal changes of the algae symbiont’s identity and density in two Caribbean coral species, Orbicella faveolata and Montastraea cavernosa, using high resolution quantitative PCR.

Andrea is incredibly grateful to NOAA-CREST, which funded her
M.S. project, and is currently funding her Ph.D. work. She also feels very fortunate to have such awesome lab mates in the Ecosystem Science Lab. After graduation, which she plans on by May 2020, she hopes to pursue a career with NOAA working in coral conservation, coral restoration techniques, and science communication.