Grace Snyder’s PhD in Marine Biology and Ecology from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, & Earth Science dealt with cell diversity in the coral Pocillopora damicornis. She studied soft-bodied stinging animals such as corals and sea anemones (Cnidarians) extensively, doing research and mentoring at several University of Miami labs including the Coral Reef Futures and the Cnidarian Immunity labs.
Coral reefs, the most biodiverse ecosystem in the ocean, are vital economic sources for fisheries and tourism and provide coastline protection against surge damage. But they have been in a global decline due to anthropogenic-caused climate change. Their destruction, or bleaching, could result in the collapse of many ecological systems in the ocean.
Global efforts to increase coral resiliency have often been at the cost of genetic biodiversity. Dr. Snyder’s postdoctoral project, conducted in the Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Genetics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, aims to discover whether corals have stem cells, and then to develop a robust, non-species-specific methodology for isolating these cells from a resilient donor coral colony and transplanting them to a recipient, in the hope of increasing its resiliency. A measure of success will be if after transplantation daughter cells are able to generate diverse cells. Modeled on therapy techniques used in humans to fix faulty genes and replenish damaged cell lines using stem cells, Dr. Snyder’s research could greatly impact coral conservation efforts.