Sandra Romano




St. Thomas


College of Science and Mathematics

Dr. Sandra L. Romano, who joined the faculty at UVI in 2000 as a professor of marine biology, has worked with undergraduate and graduate students on her research on the molecular systematics of corals, for which she receivedfundingfromthe National Science Foundation.

She has served as the Pre-Health Professions Advisor, the coordinator for the National Institutes of Health's Minority Biomedical Research Support – Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (NIH MBRS-RISE)program on the St. Thomas Campus. She has also served as the director of the Masters in Marine and Environmental Science Program and chair of the Departmentof Biological Sciences. She currently leads the Workforce Development and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education research portion of the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research(VI - EPSCoR) project. She also provides leadership for the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Partnership for International Research and Education, a collaborative grant project that UVI has with the University of South Florida.

Dr. Romano's interest in marine biology and coral reefs developed during her teenage years on St. Croix where she graduated from The Good Hope School and then later attended the West Indies Lab. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Aquatic Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and went on to earn her masters and Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Hawaii, Manoa. She was awarded a yearlong postdoctoral fellowship by the Smithsonian Institution at the National Museum of Natural History and the Laboratory for Molecular Systematics. She spent another four years as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory.

In 2012, Dr. Romano was selected as one of forty national Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education (PULSE)Leadership Fellows. PULSEis a collaborative effort developed and funded by NSF, NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and Howard Hughes Medical Institutewhose objective is to implement recommendations of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Vision and Change Reportfor transforming life sciences educationat the Department level and above.

Abstract of Research
My general interests are in the evolution of biodiversity in marine organisms, particularly those that make up the coral reef community. My research focuses on using molecular tools to understand the evolution and population genetics of scleractinian corals, the animals that form the framework of coral reefs. I use molecular characters to test morphological hypotheses about higher level relationships (between genera and families) within the order Scleractinia. Most recently, in collaboration with colleagues, I have started using molecular characters to better understand the dynamics of coral disease.

Selected Publications:

  • Romano, S.L. 1990. Long-term effects of interspecific aggression on growth of the reef-building corals Cyphastrea ocellina (Dana) and Pocillopora damicornis (Linnaeus). JEMBE 140:135-146
  • Romano, S.L. and Palumbi, S.R. 1996. Evolution of scleractinian corals inferred from molecular systematics. Science 271: 640-642
  • Fautin, D.G. and Romano, S.L. 1997. Cnidaria. In: The Tree of Life: A distributed Internet project containing information about phylogeny and biodiversity. Maddison, D.R. and W. P. Maddison. 1996.
  • Romano, S.L., and Cairns, S.D.. 2000. Molecular phylogenetic hypotheses for the evolution of scleractinian corals. Bulletin of Marine Science. 67:1043-1068
  • Shearer, T.L., van Oppen, M.J.H., Romano, S.L. and Worheide, G.. 2002. Slow mitochondrial DNA sequence evolution in the Anthozoa (Cnidaria). Molecular Ecology 11:2475-2488
  • Romano, S.L. and Stake, J.L.. 2007. Scleractinia. In: M. Daly et al. Phylum Cnidaria: A review of phylogenetic patterns and diversity 300 years after Linnaeus. Zootaxa 1668: 127-182
  • Budd, A.F., Romano, S.L., Smith, N., and Barbeitos, M. 2010. Rethinking the Phylogeny of Scleractinian Corals: A Review of Morphologic and Molecular data. Integrative and Comparative Biology. doi:10.1093/icb/icq062
  • Barbeitos, M.S., Romano, S.L., Lasker, H. 2010. Repeated loss of coloniality and symbiosis in scleractinian corals. Proceedings National Academy of Sciences. doi:10.1073/pnas.0914380107
  • Palumbi, S.R., Vollmer, S. Romano, S.L., Oliver, T., Ladner, J. 2011. The role of genes in understanding the evolutionary ecology of reef-building corals. Evolutionary Ecology doi: 10.1007/s10682-011-9517-3