EESS talk on "Seascape genomics to empower coral reef conservation strategies"


Event details

Date and time 04.05.2021 12:1513:00  
Place and room
Speaker Dr Oliver M. Selmoni, Postdoctoral fellow, Geographic Information Systems Laboratory (LASIG), EPFL
Category Conferences - Seminars
The future of coral reefs is under threat since anomalous heat waves are causing the death of reef building corals around the world. Without corals, the entire reef ecosystem is expected to collapse, threatening the survival of up to one third of marine wildlife. Despite the catastrophic perspectives, a glimmer of hope is brought by corals that persist at reefs exposed to recurrent heat waves. Corals at these sites might have adapted to stressful conditions and therefore carry the genetic characteristics to secure future survival. One of the hot topics in coral research is the characterization of corals adaptive potential: how can we find corals adapted to heat stress and how can we use this information to empower coral reef conservation?
We propose an approach called seascape genomics to answer these questions. Seascape genomics is at the crossroads between environmental and genomic analyses. First, remote sensing is employed to characterize the thermal history of a reef system over the last decades. Next, coral samples are collected at the reefs exposed to the most contrasted conditions. These samples undergo genomics analyses to identify the genetic features that are characteristic of corals persisting in stressful environments. These genetic features might underpin the adaptive process conferring thermal resistance in corals.
We applied this approach two case studies, Japan and New Caledonia, and we successfully identified coral populations potentially adapted to thermal stress. Furthermore, we developed a framework to transpose the results of seascape genomics into a prediction of the adaptive potential at the extent of an entire reef system. This information is to date missing in marine conservation plans, and could be used to prioritize reefs based their probability of future survival.

Short biography:
Dr Oliver Selmoni is a postdoc at the Laboratory of Geographic Information Systems (LASIG) at EPFL. He completed his BSc in biology and Msc in bioinformatics at the University of Lausanne. He joined the LASIG in 2016 for a PhD thesis focusing on the use of environmental genomics to support the conservation of coral reefs. His PhD work, completed in 2020, was performed in collaboration with the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD) of New Caledonia (southern Pacific). He is member of the ManaCo network, founded in 2019 and promoting the implementation of innovative technologies from academic research into marine conservation practices.

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free
  • This event is internal


  • EESS - IIE



Seascape genomics climate change coral reef marine conservation adaptation