Join us to learn about the symbiotic relationship underpinning coral reef architecture from the Director of Carnegie’s Department of Embryology Yixian Zheng.

Corals are marine invertebrates that build large exoskeletons from which colorful reefs are constructed. But this reef-building is only possible because of a mutually beneficial relationship between the coral and various species of single-celled algae called dinoflagellates that live inside the cells of coral polyps.

For the past two years, Zheng and her colleagues have been working to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of endosymbiosis in the relationships between both coral and jellyfish and the photosynthetic algal species that they host. She has been building on Carnegie’s longstanding tradition of model organism development to begin revealing the genetics underlying the uptake and sustenance of symbiotic dinoflagellates by the soft coral species Xenia.

Zheng received a B.S. in Biology from Sichuan University, Sichuan, China, and a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics at The Ohio State University. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California San Francisco and joined Carnegie as a staff member in 1996. Between 2000 and 2012 she was also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. She was named Director of Carnegie Embryology in 2017. With Observatories Director John Mulchaey, she served as Interim Co-President of the institution for the first half of 2018.

July 23, 2020