Connectivity in a Red Sea Sponge across an Environmental Gradient

  • Emily C. Giles

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


While geographic distance is a variable often used to explain population genetic differentiation, dynamic processes leading to stochastic population structure are more likely driving factors. The following thesis presents the population structure of a common reef sponge, Stylissa carteri, and yields hypotheses on the influence of environmental heterogeneity as a predictor of the observed population structure. This project represents the largest population genetics study thus conducted in the Red Sea and also includes the first population genetics data gathered for sites off the coast of Sudan and Soccotra. The study herein presented includes both a large scale (36 reef sites covering over 1000km of coastline) and small-scale (16 transects of 50m each) analysis of gene flow in a benthic dwelling organism. The variable effect of geography and environmental conditions on S. carteri population structure is assessed using a seascape genetics approach. Environmental factors from a nine-year dataset accessed from the NASA Giovanni website including chlorophyll a, sea surface temperature, dissolved and particulate organic matter for both the annual and winter temporal scale were considered.
Date of AwardAug 2014
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorMichael Berumen (Supervisor)


  • Population Genetics
  • Red Sea
  • Connectivity
  • Sponge
  • Enviromental Gradient
  • Stylissa Carteri

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