Janaya Bruce ’21


Molecular Biology

Project Title

Zooxanthellae Community Composition in Hawaiian Coral Reefs

Presentation Link

View Janaya's Presentation

Certificate(s): Environmental Studies

My goal was to determine if environmental conditions influence the composition of the symbiotic single-celled plankton known as Zooxanthellae in two species of coral. My internship focused on using bioinformatics to analyze NextGen DNA sequences and determine the species of Zooxanthellae present in each of the coral samples. I used various bioinformatics software — in addition to creating my own programs — designed to isolate characteristic regions of DNA from the Zooxanthellae genome and compare them to existing databases. The results showed differences in Zooxanthellae community composition based on coral species and the depth of collection, but only partial differences based on location. These results provide insight into the susceptibility of certain coral reefs to climate change and warming ocean temperatures because different Zooxanthellae species can provide coral with greater resilience against temperature fluctuations. This internship helped me develop a strong knowledge of computer programming and bioinformatics, as well as understand the complexities of marine conservation. I am continuing to work with the Gates Coral Lab for my senior thesis. I also realized my interest in a conservation-based career, and I plan on pursuing a graduate degree in the field of marine conservation.


Internship Year


Project Category

Biodiversity and Conservation


Gates Coral Lab, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology


Robert Toonen, Professor, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa; Mariana Rocha de Souza, Ph.D. candidate, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa