ORCID Identifier(s)


Graduation Semester and Year

Spring 2024



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Biology



First Advisor

Dr. Laura Mydlarz

Second Advisor

Dr. Amy Apprill

Third Advisor

Dr. Joseph Boll

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Todd Castoe

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Kayunta Johnson-Winters


Coral reefs face existential threats due to climate change and human activities. The combined effects of ocean warming, overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction have fundamentally altered the functionality of coral reefs and are driving a drastic increase in the prevalence and severity of coral disease outbreaks. Stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) has emerged one of the most devastating disturbances to Caribbean reef ecosystems on record. Despite notable progress, the cellular mechanisms driving SCTLD pathogenesis remain poorly understood. To address this issue, my dissertation investigates the gene expression, histopathology, immune protein activity, and symbiont community dynamics involved in SCTLD progression and susceptibility. In chapter two, I utilize a multi-species SCTLD transmission experiment to examine the gene expression shifts within the coral host and its algal endosymbiont (family Symbiodiniaceae) in response to SCTLD infection. In chapter three, I correlate histology, immune protein activity, and Symbiodiniaceae community data with constitutive gene expression patterns to identify the factors contributing to disease susceptibility. In chapter four, I present a supervised machine learning framework to examine the gene expression patterns involved in SCTLD progression in a major reef-building coral and its dominant algal endosymbiont. Overall, this work establishes a foundation for integrating host and endosymbiont gene expression patterns with physiological phenotypes into coral disease research and identifies key factors contributing to SCTLD susceptibility and pathogenesis.


Coral, Disease, Symbiosis, Immunity, Gene expression, Climate change


Bioinformatics | Cell Biology | Computational Biology | Genomics | Immunology of Infectious Disease | Integrative Biology | Marine Biology


Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


I am profoundly grateful to my incredible parents, Lyle and Kelly Beavers, whose unwavering support and encouragement have guided me through every challenge. I am thankful for my wonderful big sister, Devon Lord, who always has and always will inspire me. I am also grateful for my brother-in-law, Dr. Nathan Lord, whose encouragement of my scientific endeavors helped push me to become the researcher that I am today. In addition, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to my boyfriend, Spencer Link, and to my best friends, Annalee Rhodes, Maria Cavazos, and Madison Hockman, whose steadfast love and care sustained me through the rigors of my Ph.D. journey. Their companionship lifted me up when I needed it most, and I surely couldn’t have made this body of work without them. I am deeply grateful to my lab cohort, Madison Emery and Emily Van Buren, whose camaraderie and expertise were indispensable to my graduate school experience. It has been a privilege to grow both scientifically and professionally alongside them, and I look forward to witnessing their continued success when our time together at UTA comes to an end. Finally, I extend my sincere gratitude to my dissertation committee, whose guidance has been instrumental in my development as a scientist. I am particularly thankful for my advisor, Dr. Laura Mydlarz. Her mentorship has empowered me to become a capable and confident researcher, and I will always be grateful for the time she has invested in my success.

Chapter2_SupplementaryData.xlsx (23825 kB)
Supplementary Data for Chapter 2

Source Data.xlsx (32 kB)
Source Data for Chapter 2

Chapter3_SupplementaryData.xlsx (11687 kB)
Supplementary Data for Chapter 3

Chapter4_SupplementaryData.xlsx (3601 kB)
Supplementary Data for Chapter 4



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