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Jessica Bouwmeester

Postdoctoral Fellow
M.Sc., University of Lausanne, Switzerland; Ph.D., King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
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Biography

Jessica Bouwmeester is a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Center for Species Survival, where she works with Mary Hagedorn, Ph.D. Bouwmeester is based in Hawai’i at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology. Her research is focused on the reproductive physiology of corals and how it is affected by climate change, as well as the physiology of the corals’ photosynthetic algal symbionts and how to conserve them through cryopreservation.

As part of her work in Hawai’i, Bouwmeester has uncovered some of the effects of climate change, particularly the roles of warming sea temperatures, photosynthetic active radiation (visible light), and ultraviolet (UV) radiation on coral spawning and reproductive physiology. Climate change is causing devastating stress to corals around the world, but if coral reproduction fails, no adaptation and/or recovery is possible.

Understanding the processes involved allows for concrete solutions to be proposed and applied to protect corals for future generations. More recently, Bouwmeester has also been working on developing a new cryopreservation protocol for coral algal symbionts from the Symbiodiniaceae family. After two consecutive coral bleaching events in Hawai’i in 2014 and 2015, the physiology of coral symbionts had changed, which caused earlier cryopreservation protocols to stop working. After identifying some of the physiological changes that had occurred, Bouwmeester was able to redesign and test a new protocol that is currently working on symbiont communities from at least three coral species.

Bouwmeester obtained a French undergraduate degree in life sciences from the University of Aix-Marseille (France) in 2002. She received her M.Sc. in biology from the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) in 2005, and her Ph.D. in Marine Science at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) in 2013. She then occupied several postdoctoral positions to study corals of the Red Sea, (at KAUST, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), the Caribbean (in Illinois, U.S.), the Arabian/Persian Gulf (in Qatar), and now the Pacific Ocean (in Hawai’i, USA).

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