Cal Poly Marine Sciences
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
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Effects of and defenses against ultravioliet radiation in marine invertebrates

Research projects led by Dr. Adams investigate effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) on marine invertebrates and the natural defenses they use to prevent damage. Damaging levels of UVR reaching the Earth’s surface and the marine environment have increased over the past two decades. This has created an increasing awareness that naturally occurring UVR (290-400 nm) can damage many marine invertebrates and algae (especially planktonic organisms that float high in the water column).

UVR inhibits primary productivity, alters reproduction and behavior, can be partially responsible for coral bleaching, effects food webs, and can cause death of marine organisms. Broadcast spawned gametes and free-living planktonic larvae of marine invertebrates are likely to be the most sensitive to UVR because most of them lack external coatings, they are transparent and small, and have limited control of their position in the water column. These stages are also exceptionally vulnerable because they are undergoing rapid cell division and growth, both processes that are known to be affected by UVR. Dr. Adams uses one of the best model organisms, the purple sea urchin, (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus), for studying effects of UVR at both the molecular and organismal levels is the sea urchin embryo.

Four specific aims are being addressed by Dr. Adams’ group: 1) determine the current and future levels of UVR over time and space reaching temperate (central California) coastal marine waters in San Luis Bay; 2) identify molecular targets of UVR that cause UV-induced delays in division in purple sea urchin (S. purpuratus) embryos using both artificial and natural UV-exposures; 3) determine the type and concentrations of MAAs present in purple sea urchin eggs and embryos using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC); and 4) determine how much damage and relative protection embryos may experience in the water column from solar UVR and whether MAA-protection is wavelength dependent. This research involves undergraduate and graduate students at all levels.