Team Coral The Aeby/Callahan Lab

Aloha All Reefology 101 followers,

Here is a brief introduction to “Team Coral” aka the Aeby/Callahan lab members, starting off with our fearless leaders Dr. Greta Aeby and Dr. Sean Callahan.


Dr. Greta Aeby:

Greta is a coral biologist at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB). She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Hawaii where she studied the evolution and ecology of the coral disease, Porites trematodiasis. She then completed post-doctoral training at the University of West Florida examining factors affecting the susceptibility of coral to black band disease. She returned to Hawaii and has been investigating coral and fish disease in the main and northwestern Hawaiian Islands as well as in other areas of the Indo-Pacific.


Dr. Sean Callahan:

Originally from Lloyd Harbor, New York, Sean received an AB in Molecular Biology from Princeton University in 1988 and, after working for 5 years in the family automobile business, returned to science and complete a PhD in Biological Oceanography at MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1999. His doctoral work explored the quorum sensingregulon of Vibrio fischeri and its involvement in symbiosis between the bioluminescent bacterium and the Hawaiian bobtail squid Euprymna scolopes. As an NIH postdoctoral fellow Sean workedwith Bob Haselkorn at the University of Chicago, where he learned about the developmental program of heterocyst differentiation infilamentous cyanobacteria. In 2002 he started as an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Now a full professor, his lab typically consists of 5 -10 students and postdocs who continue thedevelopmental work on patterning and differentiation of heterocysts in the cyanobacterium Anabaena, or on a second project developed in collaboration with Greta Aeby of the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology, the roles of bacteria in coral health.

Blake Ushijima

Blake Ushijima:

Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Blake received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Hawai‛i at Mānoa in 2010. During his time at UHM he began working as an intern under Sean Callahan from the Department of Microbiology and Greta Aeby from the Hawai‛i Institute of Marine Biology on a newly formed project investigating coral disease in Kāne‛ohe Bay. As an intern he assisted in developing infection trials with the coral Montipora capitata, and initial assessments of the bacterial population associated with this coral. Blake continued working on coral disease after being accepted into the graduate program at UHM. His primary focus is pathogenesis and the pathogenic bacteria associated with the coral disease Montipora white syndrome (MWS). He is currently focusing onthe molecular mechanisms of virulence utilized by these coral pathogens, while also developing them as genetic systems. Blake is also a freezermanager for the Roche on-site freezer program, which supplies discounted enzymes and reagents to Hawaii research laboratories.

Silvia Beurmann

Silvia Beurmann:

Born and raised in Switzerland, Silvia received a B.S. in Biology and Biochemistry from the University of Zurich in 2010. During her B.S. she worked in different research labs in the Institute of Plant Biology focusing on ABC transporters in guard cell regulation and Vacuolar transporters in Arabidopsis thaliana. Aside from research conducted, she also worked as a research assistant looking at invertebrate behavior and evolutionary ecology in Scathophaga stercoraria andDrosophila melanogaster. After graduation an internship focusing on the Seychelles’ coral reefs changed her interest of study and she wanted to focus more on Marine Biology. She moved to Honolulu, Hawaii where she worked as a Divemaster for a local dive shop. When she found out about UHM’s unique graduate degree program in Microbiology specializing in Marine Biology, she took the chance and applied. After being accepted she works now with the reef-building coral Montipora capitata and the pathogenic bacteriaassociated with the coral disease Montiporawhite syndrome (MWS). She also investigates the molecular mechanisms underlying the innate immune system of M. capitata.

Amanda Shore Maggio

Amanda Shore Maggio:

Born and raised in Gainesville Florida, Amanda stayed in her hometown to receive a B.S. in Microbiology and a B.S. in Environmental Science at the University of Florida in 2010. As an undergraduate, she worked in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition helping conduct clinical studies and assessing how micro-nutrients change gut microflora populations.However, growing up fishing, skiing, andsnorkeling in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Keys led her to say good-bye to clinical studies and take up marine biology as a future field of study. Under Dr. Sean Callahan at UH Manoa’s Department of Microbiology and with Dr. Greta Aeby at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Amanda now uses her skills of analyzing microflora populations to characterize commensal bacterial populations on coral and their role in coral health and defense. She has also been involved in several field studies, including disease management in Palmyra Atoll and coral disease monitoring in Papahanaumamokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. She is a certified NAUI Master SCUBA diver and University of Hawaii Science SCUBA diver. Outside of the lab and ocean, she enjoys playing video games, board games, and ultimate frisbee.


Christina Runyon:

Born and raised in California, she moved to Ka’a’awa, Hawai’i in 1995 with her family. Chris received a B.S. in Biology with marine emphasis from University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in 2011.  During her B.S. she worked for Dr. Greta Aeby at Hawai’i Institute for Marine Biology as research assistant investigating coral health issues. She has been trained in parasitology, coral husbandry and ecology as well as coral disease identification. Her main undergrad project was involving Montipora capitata and the development Montiporid linear growth anomalies (MLGA) in Kane’ohe Bay, where she analyzed growth rates, mortality and fecundity of corals affected with MLGA. She has done fieldwork in American Samoa documenting growth anomalies (GAs) of Acroporids in Faga’tele Bay, and has been trained in transmission electron microscopy (TEM), analyzing the cellular ultra structure of GAs. Chris joined the Microbiology Department in 2011 under Dr. Callahan and has since transferred into the newly developed Marine Biology Program. She is currently investigating a cyanobacterial infection similar to Black Band Disease, on the island of Kaua’i, looking at the distribution, prevalence, and virulence of the disease as well as identifying the key pathogenic bacteria associated with the disease.

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