Marilyn Brandt

Ph.D. Candidate, Marine Biology and Fisheries
Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science
University of Miami

email: [email protected]


Coral diseases are now recognized as an important threat to the survival of coral reefs, most especially in the Caribbean region. The impact of disease on coral populations has proven devastating in some cases. For example, White Band disease is thought to have contributed significantly to the loss of Acropora spp. in the shallow reef environments of the Caribbean and diseases such as Black-band and White Plague have caused major changes in the coral communities of some reef areas. This situation could become even more serious in the near future as human activity increases the virulence of disease in the marine environment. It is therefore important to understand how the dynamics of coral diseases are affected by the environment and in turn, how disease plays a role in shaping the structure of coral reefs.  Due to the limitations of studying coral diseases in situ (e.g. the rarity of disease and the limits of SCUBA), the development of epidemiological models supported by quantitative data is necessary.

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M. Brandt's CV

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2005 Florida Bleaching Photos

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Photos for D. DiResta class

The goal of my dissertation is to combine computer modeling and field observations in order to develop a spatially accurate, individual-based epizootiological model of coral disease.  Epizootiology is the study of the spread and distribution of disease in animal populations and the methods and techniques of this discipline have only recently begun to be applied to coral diseases. The methods of my dissertation involve the development, programming, calibration and validation of a computer model that I have named the Simulation of Infected Corals model, or S.I.CO. model.  I plan to apply the model to questions concerning disease spread and impact on the coral reef ecosystems of both Little Cayman (Cayman Islands, B.W.I.) and the Florida Keys. Funding for the field work portion of my dissertation has come from NCORE, the Central Caribbean Marine Institute's coral reef fellowship, the International Society for Reef Studies & Ocean Conservancy's coral reef fellowship, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science's small boats grant, the Propeller Club's student scholarship and the Project Aware Foundation.

I graduated from New York University with a B.A. in Biology and a minor in Anthropology in May of 2001.  The following fall, I entered the Ph.D. program at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) under the advisement of Dr. John McManus. My field experience includes seven coral reef surveys with the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) program (the Cayman Islands, 1999; the Turks and Caicos Islands, 1999; Panama, 2002; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, 2003; Florida Keys Reef Tract, 2003; Dry Tortugas, 2004; Antigua, 2005), two of which I was the field leader and lead author on the summary reports (Punta Cana and Antigua; see this website for links to reports). I am currently a member of the University of Miami's Deep Underwater Research program and am a Global Underwater Explorers certified Level 1 Technical Diver.  In July of 2001, I developed and implemented the first of what has become an annual summer sea camp for high school students of the Cayman Islands through the Central Caribbean Marine Institute and have returned each year to act as head science teacher. I am also a member of the University of Miamiís chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Lambda Graduate Honor Society.


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