Our overall goals are to : (1) coordinate investigations of South Pacific organisms as pharmaceutical resources for treating diseases of importance in the Pacific Islands and United States and for novel bioenergy applications (2) support sustainable uses of the biodiversity upon which such bioprospecting depends, and (3) understand the processes degrading coral reef ecosystems and initiate locally-appropriate conservation measures to enhance reef resiliance to both local and global pressures, (4) leverage NIH, University of the South Pacific (USP), and other resources to develop the South Pacific Center for Biodiversity Conservation and Drug Discovery (SPCBCDD) into a self-sustaining institution serving the 12 countries that operate USP (Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu), and (5) develop """"""""green"""""""" culturing of coral reef live rock as an environmentally appropriate and economically viable substiture for the present destructive practices of live rock mining from Fijian reefs. Drug discovery will focus on (1) phylogenetically distinct and chemically rich marine actinomycetes making metabolites that are active in biomedical screens and that hosts novel metabolic pathways valuable for sustainable energy development, and (2) on chemically-rich coral reef macroorganisms that commonly upregulate defensive chemistry in response to attack from natural enemies, simulated attack, or other stresses. Extracts from these organisms will be bioassayed against relevant models including: drug resistant bacteria, fungi, TB, Malaria, psychological disorders, and cancer. Additionally, we will evaluate patterns in tropical reef biodiversity and conduct field experiments to determine the relative impacts of common stresses (e.g., overfishing, nutrification) causing seaweed replacement of corals and precipitating the dramatic loss of biodiversity that is occurring on coral reefs worldwide. Toward this end we will identify the processes and mechanisms involved, elucidate those critical herbivores that control the most aggressive seaweeds, and work with village leaders to develop effective resource management strategies based on this scientific input. We will also continue developing a web based foundation we have created for funding conservation of Fijian coral reef and mangrove systems.

Public Health Relevance

This project focuses on marine microbes and Fijian coral reef organisms as producers of biologically active secondary metabolites that can be developed as pharmaceuticals to address diseases of peoples of both the U.S. and developing countries, especially in the South Pacific. Additional goals are the conservation of biotic resources on coral reefs and economic development of coastal Fijian villages based on sustainable practices.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Fogarty International Center (FIC)
Research Project--Cooperative Agreements (U01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-ICP2-B (53))
Program Officer
Katz, Flora N
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Georgia Institute of Technology
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Demko, Alyssa M; Amsler, Charles D; Hay, Mark E et al. (2017) Declines in plant palatability from polar to tropical latitudes depend on herbivore and plant identity. Ecology 98:2312-2321
Asolkar, Ratnakar N; Singh, Ahilya; Jensen, Paul R et al. (2017) Marinocyanins, cytotoxic bromo-phenazinone meroterpenoids from a marine bacterium from the streptomycete clade MAR4. Tetrahedron 73:2234-2241
Brooker, Rohan M; Brandl, Simon J; Dixson, Danielle L (2016) Cryptic effects of habitat declines: coral-associated fishes avoid coral-seaweed interactions due to visual and chemical cues. Sci Rep 6:18842
Dell, Claire; Hay, Mark E (2016) Induced defence to grazing by vertebrate herbivores: uncommon or under-investigated? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 561:137-145
Dell, Claire L A; Longo, Guilherme O; Hay, Mark E (2016) Positive Feedbacks Enhance Macroalgal Resilience on Degraded Coral Reefs. PLoS One 11:e0155049
Jensen, Paul R; Moore, Bradley S; Fenical, William (2015) The marine actinomycete genus Salinispora: a model organism for secondary metabolite discovery. Nat Prod Rep 32:738-51
Dell, Claire; Montoya, Joseph; Hay, Mark (2015) Effect of marine protected areas (MPAs) on consumer diet: MPA fish feed higher in the food chain. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 540:227-234
Clements, Cody S; Hay, Mark E (2015) Competitors as accomplices: seaweed competitors hide corals from predatory sea stars. Proc Biol Sci 282:
Duncan, Katherine R; Crüsemann, Max; Lechner, Anna et al. (2015) Molecular networking and pattern-based genome mining improves discovery of biosynthetic gene clusters and their products from Salinispora species. Chem Biol 22:460-471
Shearer, Tonya L; Snell, Terry W; Hay, Mark E (2014) Gene expression of corals in response to macroalgal competitors. PLoS One 9:e114525

Showing the most recent 10 out of 63 publications