William Fitt

Graduate Faculty


Ph.D. – University of California, Santa Barbara

Research Interests

Research Interests

  • Climate change, ocean acidification
  • Seasonal changes in coral tissue and symbiotic alga parameters
  • Physiological and genotypic attributes of different zooxanthella-host holobionts
  • Bleaching of reef corals
  • Settlement and metamorphosis of larvae
  • Strobilation of scyphistomae of the upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea

Research Projects

Our enduring objectives have been to understand fundamental aspects of symbiotic dinoflagellate (Symbiodinium) distribution, acquisition and functionality in their cnidarian (coral, jellyfish and anemone) and molluscan (giant clam) hosts. We employ molecular, genetic, biochemical and physiological techniques to resolve how genotypic and geographic differences influence the distribution, host-specificity, environmental specialization of these organisms. We also pursue how changing environmental factors correlate with recent onslaughts of bleaching and death in coral reefs, the biomass of corals and density/chlorophyll/photosynthetic efficiency of Symbiodinium, and the use of carbon by corals and Symbiodinium living inside of cnidarians.

Selected Publications

Kemp DW, Hernandez-Pech X, Iglesias-Prieto R, Fitt WK, Schmidt GW (2014)Community dynamics and physiology of Symbiodinium before, during, and after a coral bleaching event. L&O 59:788-797

Mellas R, Fitt WK, Coffroth MA (2014) Variation in symbiont uptake in the early ontogenyof the upside-down jellyfish, Cassiopea spp. JEMBE 459 38-44

Costa CF, Sassi R, Gorlach-Lira K, Fitt WK (2014) Pigment changes in Siderastrea stellata during bleaching in the coastal reefs of northeastern Brazil. LatinAmerican J of Aquatic Research 43:

Kemp DW, Thornhill DT, Rotjan RD, Iglesias-Prieto R, Fitt WK, Schmidt GW. Spatially-distinct and regionally-endemic patterns of symbiotic associations in a threatened Caribbean reef-building coral. Coral Reefs (2015)

Tansik AL, Fitt WK, Hopkinson BM (2015) CO2 uptake facilitated by an extracellular carbonic anhydrase is critical for photosynthesis in symbiotic corals. Coral Reefs, in press

Hopkinson BM, Tansik AL, Fitt WK (2015) Internal carbonic anhydrase activity in the tissue of scleractinian corals is sufficient to support proposed roles in photosynthesis and calcification. Journal of Experimental Biology, in press