Lembeh is in the heart of the Coral Triangle, and is known for its Biodiversity, but how does such high diversity come to be? Sara Simmonds and Allison Fritts-Penniman, Ph.D. candidates from UCLA, are here in Lembeh conducting research on how species evolve on coral reefs. They are looking at how close relationships between corals and other animals can lead to the formation of new species.
Sara has a degree in Zoology from the University of Tasmania. Her work focuses on adaptation in a group of snails called Coralliophila (meaning coral loving) that specialize in eating certain types of coral.
Allison, who has a degree in Natural Resources and Biology from Cornell University, is studying nudibranchs that also live and feed on specific coral species. She is interested in nudibranch evolution because of their amazing diversity of shapes and colors, as well as their ability to digest and use the tools of their prey, such as the stinging cells of a jellyfish. To follow Allison’s adventures in the field, visit her blog. For photos of nudibranchs, click here.
Sara and Allison are always eager to share their work in creative ways, as evidenced by the music video they made last year with other members of the Barber Lab at UCLA. Find the Barber Lab Quartet on Facebook to catch their next release.