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UVI Receives $2.5 Million National Science Foundation Research Grant

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) has been awarded a $2.5 million grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study stony coral tissue loss disease in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This devastating disease affecting reef-building corals is ravishing the reefs of the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Since first discovered in the Territory in 2019, many reefs in the U.S. Virgin Islands have lost more than half of their coral. Negative effects of coral loss include less diversity of marine life, less protection from storm surge, and lower water quality.  

Unfortunately, the cause(s) of stony coral tissue loss disease has yet to be identified and modeling the spread of this disease has been challenging. Classical approaches to modeling the spread and impact of disease are dependent on knowing the pathogen and having a relatively simple host population. New approaches are needed for modeling complex marine diseases like stony coral tissue loss disease that have no identified pathogen and that affect multiple hosts, in this case multiple types of corals.  UVI will lead this new grant-funded project to develop an alternate approach to modeling these complex marine diseases. 

“Stony coral tissue loss disease is radically altering coral reefs of the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean territories and nations,” explains Dr. Marilyn Brandt, a marine disease ecologist and a Research Associate Professor of Marine Science in UVI’s Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES). “The results of this collaborative project will provide critical information on how stony coral tissue loss disease spreads among diverse coral reefs. This research is innovative and exciting and has the potential to change the way we approach studying marine disease transmission. I believe that our selection for funding by the National Science Foundation shows that the University of the Virgin Islands has established itself as an internationally recognized institution for coral reef research,” said Dr. Brandt, lead researcher. 

More information is available in a news release on the Media Section of the UVI - and from this direct link