Loretta Roberson


PhD Biological Sciences, Stanford University. 
Director, Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainability.
Director, UPRRP CREST Puerto Rico Center for Environmental Neuroscience.

Research Interests:

Anthropogenic impacts on coastal marine communities; physiology, ecology, and evolution of eelgrass and coral reef communities; the ecology and evolution of RNA editing in eelgrass and algae; marine biomechanics; biofuel production.Puerto Rico provides a unique opportunity to study the interacting effects of biological and physical factors, including anthropogenic factors, on tropical marine ecosystems. Puerto Rico is one of the most densely populated islands in the world with over 500 km of coastline. My work in Puerto Rico has three main directions: (1) understanding coral calcification mechanisms by coupling neurophysiological techniques with ecology and environmental science; (2) measuring the distribution of pollutants in the watersheds of the San Juan metropolitan area and their sublethal impacts on local flora and fauna; and (3) growth potential of macroalgae for use as biomass in biofuel production and bioremediation. These three areas require a highly interdisciplinary approach and will provide critical information for predicting coastal ecosystem trajectories as disturbances from human encroachment and storm activity increase in the region.Our lab participates in the Puerto Rico Center for Environmental Neuroscience (PRCEN), a partnership between Environmental Science, Chemistry, and Biology at UPRRP and the Institute of Neurobiologyat UPRMS; the UPRRP Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainability[MDAS1] ; the EPA Region 2 Caribbean Science Consortium; and SeagrassNet,the Global Seagrass Monitoring Program.

Current projects:

  1. Coral calcification mechanisms (L. Roberson, J. Rosenthal, G. Yudowski, and A. Sabat)
  2. Presence and distribution of Emerging Contaminants in the San Juan Bay Estuary, Puerto Rico (L. Roberson, L. Diaz, and S. Leonardi, UPR Mayaguez and CariCOOS)
  3. Detection and bioremediation of personal care products in estuary systems (L. Roberson, L. Diaz, R. Palai, Dept of Physics UPRRP, and Z. Flores, Dept of Biology UPRRP)
  4. Bioaccumulation of contaminants in estuary trophic webs (L. Roberson, L. Diaz, and B. Brooks, Baylor University)
  5. Impact of pollutants, eutrophication, and hypoxia on the distribution and abundance of fish and blue crabs in a tropical estuary system (L. Roberson and T. Grothues, Rutgers University)
  6. Seafood consumption advisories ( L. Roberson, L. Diaz,  J. Bauza, San Juan Bay Estuary Program, and C. Lilyestrom, PR Dept of Natural and Environmental Resources)
  7. Neurotoxic effects of pollutants on the nervous system of organisms in the San Juan Bay Estuary (L. Roberson and S. Zottoli, Williams College and the MBL)
  8. Impact of contaminants on algal productivity, co-products and production of biofuel
  9. Habitat and biodiversity mapping for the determination of algal biomass aquaculture sites in coastal areas of Puerto Rico

Recent publications:

  1. Roberson, L.M. 2007. Materials: Strength. In: Gaines, S.D. and M.W. Denny (eds.) Encyclopedia of Tidepools and Rocky Shores, University of California Press.
  2. L.P. Keegan, J.J. Rosenthal, L.M. Roberson, and M.A. O'Connell (2007). Purification and assay of ADAR activity. In: Gott, J. (ed.) Methods in Enzymology: RNA Editing and Modification, Elsevier.
  3. Roberson, L.M. and J.J.C. Rosenthal. 2006. An accurate fluorescent assay for quantifying the extent of RNA editing. RNA. 12:1-6.
  4. Roberson, L.M. and J.A. Coyer. 2004. Variation in blade morphology of the kelp Eisenia arborea: Incipient speciation due to local water motion? Marine Ecology Progress Series 282: 115-128
  5. M.W. Denny and L.M. Roberson. 2002. Blade motion and nutrient flux to the kelp, Eisenia arborea. Biological Bulletin 203:1-13
  6. Roberson, L.M. 2001. Evolution of kelp morphology in response to local physical factors: The effect of small-scale water flow on nutrient uptake, growth, and speciation in the southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, pp. 255

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