Dr. Mark Little is a marine molecular ecologist on the ARMS restore project and is conducting large-scale microbiological experiments to understand how viruses and microbes shape reef health trajectories along the development of artificial reefs and how these processes play a role in a larger ecological context. Viruses (especially bacteriophages) are the most abundant biological entity in any given ecosystem yet are typically the most understudied member of any given system. Experiments and observation of viral and microbiological processes on building coral reefs will conducted on the ARMS restore reefs in Madagascar throughout their development.
It is well known that microbes and viruses can contribute to reef decline, especially with increasing human impact, but little work has been done linking bacteria and viruses to reef climax community development. Therefore, Mark is examining their critical roles in coral reef organismal health, microbiome diversity and function, horizontal gene transfer, and general utility in coral reef restoration. Mark is funded through a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology award, sponsored by Dr. Aaron Hartmann.