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Welcome to the Weis Lab


Coral reef ecosystems are biodiversity hotspots that provide valuable environmental and economic services to half a billion people globally including millions in the US. Reefs are faced with almost complete destruction by the end of the century due to global warming unless humanity can cap global temperature rise.


Corals are an intimate symbiosis between the coral animal and millions of single-celled algae in the family Symbiodiniaceae that reside inside of coral cells. The algae provide photosynthetically-derived sugars to the host in return for nutrients and a habitat. Dysfunction of the symbiosis, caused by global warming and other human-caused impacts, is the driver of coral bleaching and is causing widespread reef degradation globally.

Coral biologists are working together to develop a broad array of solutions to help with the coral reef crisis. As a part of these efforts, discovery has a critical role to play.

Our group investigates the cellular and molecular mechanisms governing the coral-algal partnership. We are interested in the establishment, maintenance and breakdown of these cooperative associations and approach the study of these phenomena at the cellular and molecular level. The Weis group has used a variety of model associations in these examinations and, in recent years, has focused on the tropical sea anemone, Exaiptasia diaphana, commonly called Aiptasia.


Recent News

July 2024 - The lab moves back to Cordley Hall after the two year renovation!


Jan 2024 - Welcome Maria Ruggeri, our new postdoc coming from USC!

Jan 2024 - Jun Cai, Erick White, and Maria Ruggeri attended SICB in Seattle, WA.


Dec 2023 - Congratulations newly minted Ph.D, Val Sawiccy! She is now an instructional faculty member at the University of Oregon teaching human physiology.


 August 2023 - Postdoc Sam Bedgood got at job at _____ in Florida.

June 2023 - Sam Bedgood went to Okinawa, Japan for a collaborative project.

May 2023 - Olivia Burleigh attended a class on the "Molecular and Cellular Biology of Symbiosis" at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA 

April 2023 - Olivia Burleigh was awarded the NSF-GRFP!

Jan 2023 - Erick White visited the Whitney Lab at the University of Florida.

Nov 2022 - Jun Cai and undergraduate Kali Sivula went to SACNAS in Puerto Rico.

September 2022 - Erick White, Jun Cai and Sam Bedgood are headed to Cnidofest 2022!


August 2022 - After 26 years in one place, the Weis Lab moved out of Cordley Hall. We will be in the Coast Range Building off campus for a couple of years while Cordley is renovated. All the animals and people made it to CRB just fine!

We are asking questions about host-symbiont interactions such as:

  • What are the mechanisms of recognition during onset and maintenance of the symbiosis?

  • What role does the host innate immune system play in onset, maintenance and breakdown of the symbiosis?

  • What are the dynamics of inter-partner cell proliferation during algal colonization of hosts?

  • What cellular processes take part in symbiont loss during bleaching?


Gaining an understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that underpin the healthy and dynamically stable coral-algal symbiosis will provide targets for the development of solutions to helping corals cope with a changing climate, including in breeding programs, assisted evolution and genetic engineering of resilient corals and symbionts.


Aiptasia Symbiosis Resource

The Aiptasia Symbiosis Resource is a community of researchers and educators that openly shares resources for the laboratory model organism Aiptasia (Exaiptasia diaphana) with the aim of training the next generation of scientists and providing foundational information to conservation efforts underway to save the world’s coral reefs.

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