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Ilsa Kuffner

Research Marine Biologist

Contact Info

Short Biography

As a research marine biologist for the Coastal and Marine Geology Program, I investigate the causes and effects of coral reef degradation. I explore local- to global-scale stressors on reefs, and experimentally determine how environmental variables such as sea-surface temperature, water quality, seawater chemistry, nuisance macroalgae, and ocean acidification affect coral growth, the community structure of reefs, and the process of reef building. My work informs resource managers about the mechanisms causing reef degradation and how management efforts may be improved to protect and restore degraded reefs.  Please visit the USGS Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies (CREST) website for more information:


Doctor of Philosophy, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Zoology (9/94 to 12/99)

Doctoral advisor: Paul L. Jokiel, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

Dissertation: ‘The effects of ultraviolet radiation on reef corals and the sun-screening role of mycosporine-like amino acids’

Bachelor of Arts in Zoology, University of New Hampshire, Minor in Marine Biology (9/89 to 6/93)



Research Marine Biologist, US Geological Survey, St. Petersburg Coastal & Marine Geology Science Center (9/02 to present)

Faculty, School for Field Studies (accredited through Boston University), Center for Marine Resource Studies, Turks & Caicos Islands (9/01 to 8/02)

Director, Forfar Field Station, Andros Island, Bahamas (1/01 to 8/01)

Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Guam Marine Laboratory, Chemical ecology laboratory, Advisor: Dr. Valerie Paul (8/99 to 12/00)




Kuffner, I. B., and L. T. Toth (2016) ‘A geological perspective on the degradation and conservation of western Atlantic coral reefs.’ Conservation Biology, in press, doi: 10.1111/cobi.12725.


Kuffner, I. B. (2015) ‘Underwater temperature on off-shore coral reefs of the Florida Keys, U.S.A.’ U.S. Geological Survey data release,


Toth, L. T., I. B. Kuffner, H. Cheng, and R. L. Edwards (2015) ‘A new record of the late Pleistocene coral Pocillopora palmata from the Dry Tortugas, Florida Reef Tract, USA.’ Palaios 30:827-835.


Kuffner, I. B., K. K. Yates, D. G. Zawada, J. N. Richey, C. A. Kellogg, and L. T. Toth. (2015) ‘USGS Research on Atlantic Coral Reef Ecosystems,’ U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2015-3073, 2 p.,


Kuffner, I. B., K. K. Yates, D. G. Zawada, J. N. Richey, C. A. Kellogg, L. T. Toth, and L. Torres-Garcia (2015) ‘Investigación del USGS sobre el ecosistema de arrecifes de coral en el Atlántico,’ Servicio Geológico de los Estados Unidos Hoja de Información 2015-3074, 2 p.,


Andersson, A. J., D. I. Kline, P. J. Edmunds, S. D. Archer, N. Bednaršek, R. C. Carpenter, M. Chadsey, P. Goldstein, A. G. Grottoli, T. P. Hurst, A. L. King, J. E. Kübler, I. B. Kuffner, K. R. M. Mackey, B. A. Menge, A. Paytan, U. Riebesell, A. Schnetzer, M. E. Warner, and R. C. Zimmerman (2015) ‘Understanding ocean acidification impacts on organismal to ecological scales.’ Oceanography 28:16-27.


Kuffner, I. B., B. H. Lidz, J. H. Hudson, J. S. Anderson (2015) ‘A century of ocean warming on Florida Keys coral reefs: Historic in situ observations.’ Estuaries and Coasts 38:1085-1096.


Kuffner, I. B., T. D. Hickey, and J. M. Morrison (2013) 'Calcification rates of the massive coral Siderastrea siderea and crustose coralline algae along the Florida Keys (USA) outer-reef tract.’ Coral Reefs 32:987-997.


Morrison, J. M., I. B. Kuffner, and T. D. Hickey (2013) ‘Methods for monitoring corals and crustose coralline algae to quantify in-situ calcification rates.’ U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013-1159, 11 p.


Kuffner, I. B., P. L. Jokiel , K. S. Rodgers, A. J. Andersson, and F. T. Mackenzie (2012) ‘An apparent "vital effect" of calcification rate on the Sr/Ca temperature proxy in the reef coral Montipora capitata.’ Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. Q08004, doi:10.1029/2012GC004128.


Kuffner, I. B., T. D. Hickey, V. J. Paul, J. M. Morrison, L. J. Walters, K. R. Grablow, T. Turner, and E. R. Parish (2011) ‘Half-dead colonies of Montastraea annularis release viable gametes on a degraded reef in the US Virgin Islands.’ Bulletin of Marine Science 87:855-856.


Paul, V. J., I. B. Kuffner, L. J. Walters, R. Ritson-Williams, K. S.  Beach, and M. A. Becerro (2011) ‘Chemically-mediated interactions between macroalgae, Dictyota spp., and multiple life-history stages of the coral Porites astreoides.’  Marine Ecology Progress Series 426:161-170.


Kuffner, I. B., R. Grober-Dunsmore, J. C. Brock, and T. D. Hickey (2010) ‘Biological community structure on patch reefs in Biscayne National Park, FL, USA.'  Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 164: 513-531.


Kuffner, I. B. (2010) ‘Calcification in a changing ocean.’ US Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2010-3098.


Poore, R. Z., I. B. Kuffner, and C. A. Kellogg (2010) ‘St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center coral reef research.’ U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2010–3103.


Kuffner, I. B., V. J. Paul, R. Ritson-Williams, T. D. Hickey, and L. J. Walters (2009) 'Reef communities in the Dry Tortugas (Florida, USA): baseline surveys for the new no-take area.’Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, July 2008: 311-315.


Andersson, A. J., I. B. Kuffner, F. T. Mackenzie, P. L. Jokiel, K. S. Rodgers, and A. Tan (2009) ‘Net loss of CaCO3 from a subtropical calcifying community due seawater acidification: mesocosm-scale experimental evidence.’ Biogeosciences 6:1811-1823.


Kuffner, I. B., J. C. Brock, R. Grober-Dunsmore, T. D. Hickey, V. Bonito, J. E. Bracone, C. W. Wright (2008) ‘Biological communities and geomorphology of patch reefs in Biscayne National Park, Florida, U.S.A.’ US Geological Survey Open File Report 2008-1330.


Jokiel, P. L., K. S. Rodgers, I. B. Kuffner, A. J. Andersson, E. F. Cox, and F. T. Mackenzie (2008) ‘Ocean acidification and calcifying reef organisms: a mesocosm investigation.’ Coral Reefs 27: 473-483.


Kuffner, I. B., A. J. Andersson, P. L. Jokiel, K. S. Rodgers, and F. T. Mackenzie (2008) ‘Decreased abundance of crustose coralline algae due to ocean acidification.’ Nature Geoscience 1:114-117.


Kuffner, I. B., J. C. Brock, R. Grober-Dunsmore, V. E. Bonito, T. D. Hickey, and C. W. Wright  (2007) ‘Relationships between reef fish communities and remotely sensed rugosity measurements in Biscayne National Park, Florida, U.S.A.’ Environmental Biology of Fishes 78:71-82.


Kuffner, I. B., L. J. Walters, M. A. Becerro, V. J. Paul, R. Ritson-Williams, and K. S. Beach (2006) ‘Inhibition of coral recruitment by macroalgae and cyanobacteria.’  Marine Ecology Progress Series 323:107-117. Open access:


Brock, J. C., C. W. Wright, I. B. Kuffner, R. Hernandez, and P. Thompson (2006) ‘Airborne lidar sensing of massive stony coral colonies on patch reefs in the northern Florida reef tract.’Remote Sensing of Environment 104:31-42.


Brock, J. C., K. K. Yates, R. B. Halley, I. B. Kuffner, C. W. Wright, and B. G. Hatcher (2006) ‘Northern Florida reef tract benthic metabolism scaled by remote sensing.’ Marine Ecology Progress Series 312:123-139.


Kuffner, I. B. (2005) ‘Temporal variation in photosynthetic pigments and UV-absorbing compounds in shallow populations of two Hawaiian reef corals.’ Pacific Science 59:561-580.


Kuffner, I. B. and V. J. Paul (2004) ‘Effects of the cyanobacteria Lyngbya majuscula on the larval settlement of the reef corals Acropora serculosa and Pocillopora damicornis.’ Coral Reefs23:455-458.


Kuffner, I. B. (2004) ‘Effects of Solar Irradiance on Reef Coral Physiology and Recruitment.’  In:  Hendee, J. (Ed.), The effects of combined sea temperature, light, and carbon dioxide on coral bleaching, settlement, and growth.  NOAA Research Special Report (February, 2004), Silver Spring, MD, p. 37-42.


Kuffner, I. B. (2002) ‘Effects of ultraviolet radiation and water motion on the reef coral, Porites compressa: A transplantation experiment.’ Journal of Experimental Marine Biology & Ecology270(2):147-169.


Kuffner, I. B. and V. J. Paul (2001) ‘Effects of nitrate, phosphate and iron on the growth of macroalgae and benthic cyanobacteria from Cocos Lagoon, Guam.’ Marine Ecology Progress Series222:63-72.


Kuffner, I. B. (2001) ‘Effects of ultraviolet radiation and water motion on the reef coral Porites compressa Dana: a flume experiment.’ Marine Biology 138:467-476.


Kuffner, I. B. (2001) ‘Effects of ultraviolet radiation on larval recruitment of the reef coral, Pocillopora damicornis.’ Marine Ecology Progress Series 217:251-261.


Kuffner, I. B. (1999) ‘The effects of ultraviolet radiation on reef corals and the sun-screening role of mycosporine-like amino acids.’  Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Zoology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, 164 pp.


Banaszak, A. T., M. P. Lesser, I. B. Kuffner and M. Ondrusek (1998) ‘Relationship between ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the concentration of mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) in marine organisms.’ Bulletin of Marine Science 63(3):617-628.


Kuffner, I. B., M. Ondrusek and M. P. Lesser (1995) ‘The distribution of mycosporine-like amino acids in the tissues of Hawaiian scleractinia; a depth profile.’  In: D. Gulko and P.L. Jokiel (eds.) Ultraviolet Radiation and Coral Reefs.  HIMB Tech Report No. 41, Sea Grant, Honolulu, pp. 77-85.


Grottoli-Everett, A., I. B. Kuffner (1995) ‘Individual polyp response to UV radiation in Montipora verrucosa.’ In: D. Gulko and P.L. Jokiel (eds.) Ultraviolet Radiation and Coral Reefs. HIMB Tech Report No. 41, Sea Grant, Honolulu, pp. 115-120.





My Science Topics

Science Topic
Oceans and Coastlinesmarine geology
Oceans and Coastlinesmarine ecosystems
Oceans and Coastlinesocean temperature
Oceans and Coastlinesreef ecosystems
Techniques and Methodsfield methods
Techniques and Methodsphotography
Techniques and Methodsstatistical analysis
Plants and Animalsanimals
Plants and Animalsaquatic vegetation
Plants and Animalsherbivores
Plants and Animalsinvertebrates
Environmental Issueshuman impacts
Environmental Issuesmarine water quality
Environmental Issuesoverfishing
Atmosphere and Climateclimate change
Atmosphere and Climateglobal change
Atmosphere and Climateglobal warming
Ecology and Environmentbenthic ecosystems
Ecology and Environmentecological competition
Ecology and Environmentecological processes
Ecology and Environmentecosystem functions
Ecology and Environmenthabitats

My USGS Science Strategy Areas

Understanding Ecosystems & Predicting Ecosystems Change

Climate Variability & Change

Coral Reefs

Image of Current Focus for Coral Reefs


Global climate change impacts on coral reef systems

Ocean acidification impacts on calcifying organisms

Coral reef ecology

Coral-algal-herbivore interactions

Coral reproduction, spawning, and recruitment

Use of marine protected areas as management tools

Contact Information

Ilsa Kuffner
600 4Th Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
727-502-8182 - Fax
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