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Marine Biology Graduate Student Association

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Elizabeth A. Lenz

Elizabeth Lenz

The Polyp Lab
Department of Biology
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330-8303


B.S. Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Marine Biology, UC Davis, 2009
M.S. Marine Biology, CSUN, expected 2014

.pdf of CV

M.S. Thesis: An ecological and physiological assessment of tropical coral reefs to past and predicted disturbances


I have extensive research experience across ecosystems and approaches - from coastal prairies to coral reefs, including experimental and observational studies in the laboratory and field. During my masters, I have devoted my research to studying tropical coral reef physiology and ecology in the context of climate change. As carbon continues to be emitted into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, the ocean is absorbing high concentrations of CO2 causing the energetically favorable reaction for seawater pH and calcium carbonate ions (the building blocks for skeletons/shells) to decline. This process is known as ocean acidification (OA) and has become a threat to calcifying marine organisms, such as reef building corals, oysters, and sea urchins. The broad theme of my research is to understand dominant reefs of the future from the physiological to ecosystem level as anthropogenic disturbances act on reef ecosystems.

In Moorea, French Polynesia I studied the effects of OA on the calcification response of the abundant and weedy coral species Porites rus. This stony coral species was selected for its high morphological plasticity in response to light conditions and used to better understand how calcification is influenced by mass transfer rates across differential morphologies in a carbonate-deprived environment. With this study system, I tested for interactive effects of OA, light, temperature and flow on the coral morphologies within P. rus to determine sensitivity between branched and plated morphotypes.

Additionally, I have been studying changes in the abundance of gorgonians (soft corals) at a local-scale in St. John, USVI and regional-scale throughout the Caribbean over time as thermal stress, overfishing, and hurricane disturbances have attributed to the decline of the stony coral cover. In St. John, I have assessed the changes in gorgonian abundance from 1992-2012 using archived photoquadrats recorded for the NSF Long Term Research in Environmental Biology. To assess the regional-scale changes of gorgonians were extracted from monitoring reports and scientific literature.

Both of these efforts have greatly attributed to my understanding of coral reef ecology, modern experimental methods, and concerns for improved comprehension of physiological responses of corals to GCC in order to effectively protect these invaluable ecosystems.


Sanford E, Gaylord B, Hettinger A, Lenz EA, Meyer K, Hill TM. 2014. Ocean acidification increases the vulnerability of native oysters to predation by invasive snails. Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 1471-2954

Lenz, E.A., D. Brown, C. Didden, A. Arnold, and P.J. Edmunds. 2013. The distribution of hermit crabs and their gastropod shells on shallow reefs in St. John, USVI. BMS

Lavigne, M., T.M. Hill, E. Sanford, B. Gaylord, A.D. Russell, E.A. Lenz, M.K. Young, J.D. Hosfelt. 2013. The elemental composition of purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) of pCO2 during early life stages. Biogeosciences. 10 (6): 3465-3477.

Pespeni, M.H., E. Sanford, B. Gaylord, T.M. Hill, J.D. Hosfelt, H. Jaris, M. LaVigne, E.A. Lenz, A.D. Russell, M.K. Young, and S.R. Palumbi. 2013. Evolutionary change during experimental ocean acidification. PNAS, 110 (17): 6937-694

Hettinger, A., B. Gaylord, E. Sanford, T.M. Hill, E.A.Lenz, and A.D. Russell. 2013. Carry-over effects from ocean acidification persist in the natural environment. GCB. 19 (11): 3317-3326

Gaylord, B., T.M. Hill, E. Sanford, E.A. Lenz, L.A. Jacobs, K.N. Sato, A.D. Russell. 2011. Functional impacts of ocean acidification in an ecologically critical foundation species. JEMBE, 214 (15): 2586–2594


2013-2018 NSF Graduate Research Fellow ($126,000)
2013 Best Student Presentation ($200): CSUN’s 17th Annual Student Research & Creative Works Symposium
2012-13 Graduate Fellowship for Outstanding Research Promise ($5,000): CSUN College of Science and Mathematics