Marine Ecosystem Health

Laboratory of Integrative Marine and Coastal Ecology

Matt Ajemian, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Andia Chaves Fonnegra, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Florida Atlantic University
Wilkes Honors College/Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute

My website


The Laboratory of Integrative Marine and Coastal Ecology focuses on understanding the mechanisms that underlie changes in marine and coastal ecosystems by studying the structure and dynamics of organisms, populations and communities. Our focus are marine sponges, corals and algae.

We use an interdisciplinary approach in which we integrate reproductive biology, experimental ecology, population genetics and mathematical modeling. The goal of our research is to determine how organisms, ecological interactions and ecosystems are altered by anthropogenic activities and global impacts such as marine pollution and climate change, and aims to enhance management of ecosystems.


Grants and Fellowships 

2011-2013 UNESCO-L’Oréal Fellowship for Young Women in Science

2010 NSU Chancellor´s Faculty Research and Development Grant

2006 Short Term Fellowship. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

2005 Link Foundation Grant. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution 

2002 SIGMA XI (The Scientific Research Society) Grant


Recent Publications

Chaves-Fonnegra, A., Riegl, B, Zea, S., Lopez, J.V., Brandt, M., Smith, T. and Gilliam, D.S. Online published 2017. Bleaching events regulate shifts from coral to excavating sponges. Global Change Biology.

Halperin, A.A, Chaves-Fonnegra, A., Gilliam, D.S. 2017. Coral-excavating spongeCliona delitrix: current trends of space occupation on high latitude coral reefs. Hydrobiologia, 790 (1): 299–310.

St. Gelais. A.T., Chaves-Fonnegra, A., Kosmynin, V.N., Moulding, A.L. and Gilliam D.S. Siderastrea siderea spawning and oocyte resorption at high latitude. 2016. Invertebrate Reproduction and Development, 60 (3): 212 -222

Torsten, T., Moitinho-Silva, L., Lurgi, M., Björk, J.R., Easson, C., Astudillo, C., Olson, J.B., Erwin, P.M., López-Legentil, S., Luter, H., Chaves-Fonnegra, A., Costa, R., Schupp, P., Steindler, L., Erpenbeck, D., Gilbert, J., Knight, R., Ackerman, G., Lopez, J.V., Taylor, M.W., Thacker, R.W., Montoya, J.M., Hentschel, U., and Webster, N. 2016. Global Sponge Microbiome: Diversity, structure and convergent evolution of the global sponge microbiome. Nature Communications 7, article number 11870.

St. Gelais. A.T., Chaves-Fonnegra, A., Brownlee, A.S. Kosmynin, V.N., Moulding, A.L. and Gilliam D.S. 2016. Fecundity and sexual maturity of the coralSiderastrea siderea at high latitude along the Florida Coral Reef Tract, USA. Invertebrate Biology: 135(1): 46-57. 

Chaves-Fonnegra, A., Maldonado, M. and J.V. Lopez. 2016. Asynchronous reproduction and multi-spawning in the coral excavating sponge Cliona delitrix. Journal of the Marine Biological Association, UK 96(2): 515-528.

Halperin, A., Chaves-Fonnegra, A., Gilliam, D.S. 2016. Effect of excavating-sponge
removal on coral growth. Journal of the Marine Biological Association, UK, 96(2), 473–479.

Chaves-Fonnegra, A., Feldheim, K.A., Secord, J. and J.V. Lopez. 2015. Population structure
and dispersal of the coral-excavating sponge Cliona delitrix in the Greater Caribbean Sea.
Molecular Ecology, 24(7): 1447–1466