CTAHR NEWS
13 July 2020

The Sponge Microbiome

Zoom in July 28 for a childhood fascination turned hard science

The Sponge Microbiome

Marine sponges are a major player in the coral reef ecosystem. They provide diversity, biomass, primary production, and nitrification. Sponges also can host biologically active microorganisms within their tissues that produce metabolites, such as pigments, that can benefit the sponge.

But what exactly is the interaction between host and guest?

Join Ph.D. candidate Francis Sakai-Kawada from the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering as he defends his dissertation, “Characterization of prodiginine biosynthetic pathway in Pseudoalteromonas rubra PPB1 isolated from Petrosia species,” on Tuesday, July 28, at 12:00 noon.

Tune in via Zoom as Francis discusses his discoveries, including the first cited incidence of a prodiginine-producing Pseudoalteromonas species harboring within a marine sponge host.

“My grandpa owned a local pet shop for 40 years, where he sold tropical and marine fish,” Francis says. “As a child, I tended the tanks and ponds, and was fascinated by aquatic life and how fish interact with each other.”

He adds, “Driven by that childhood fascination, I had the fortunate opportunity to conduct my research in my hometown of Hilo. I studied several strains of pigmented bacteria we isolated from marine sponges in Puhi Bay and Coconut Island (Moku Ola) off the eastern shore of the Big Island, with the hope of understanding the role of the sponge microbiome and its overall effect on our coral reef ecosystem.”

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