Understanding how young coral and CCA are affected by ocean acidification

Graduate Student: Ananda Ellis

Before starting her graduate work at CSUN, Ananda Ellis completed her undergraduate degree at Lewis and Clark College in 2009. In the years between 2009 and 2013, she worked as the Education Director for the Pigeon Key Foundation, a marine science education non-profit organization located in the Florida Keys.


Coral reefs are beautiful, colorful ocean ecosystems that create a lot of biodiversity (they increase the amount of wildlife and species in the area). In fact, 25% of the animals in the oceans can be found on coral reefs even though corals are only located on 1% of the ocean. Coral reefs themselves are actually composed of animals. They look like tiny sea anemones and create a skeleton that is responsible for creating the coral reef ecosystem that other animals use as shelter and food.

However, coral reefs are under threat. Climate change has caused the ocean to become more acidic, a process known as ocean acidification. Many scientists have tried to understand how this will affect ocean ecosystems, like coral.


Ananda Ellis, a graduate student at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), plans to study young corals, which are more sensitive to ocean acidification than adults. When young coral settle (take themselves out of water and plant themselves to the ocean floor to live for the rest of their lives), they prefer to live on a pink algae crust known as crustose coralline algae (CCA). Coral and CCA make a great team, but CCA is also sensitive to acidification, which has caused coral to settle less and less. Ananda wants to discover what mechanism is causing this decreased rate of settlement.

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