Dr. Caroline Palmer
Address: School of Biological and Marine Sciences, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA
During my undergraduate degree, my interest in coral health and reef conservation developed out of concern for their demise. I taught myself coral biology and conducted coral disease surveys in Indonesia, which triggered my curiosity about coral health - why some corals remain healthy even when adjacent to diseased ones. I began my Ph.D. (James Cook University and Newcastle University, UK) with a place on the Pauley Program at the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology, led by Prof Ruth Gates. This supportive experience enabled me to rapidly extend my research independence and establish long-term collaborations. During my Ph.D., I identified several coral immunity mechanisms and demonstrated their use in coral tolerance to both bleaching and disease. Like us, corals have immune systems and when they have low immunity they are more likely to get sick and die, and those with high immunity are better able to survive. This means that by applying coral immunology, we can find, assist, or engineer corals most likely to survive future climate extremes. We can then use those to better monitor, manage, conserve coral reefs, and for more successful restoration project outcomes.
I am now the Director and Principal Investigator of Seeking Survivors, an international coral immunology and conservation organisation working primarily in Costa Rica. We take an immunological approach to investigate how corals stay healthy with seasonal fluctuations and re-establish health during, or after, a perturbation. Our team includes Costa Rican citizens, scientists and students, and together we monitor coral and coral reef health and are developing a Coral Health Tool. We also have a UK-based team of researchers, who are conducting experiments on anthozoans to learn more about what maintains health, in collaboration with the National Marine Aquarium and the University of Plymouth.