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Joleah Lamb - UC Irvine. Irvine, CA, US

Joleah Lamb

Assistant Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology | UC Irvine


Joleah Lamb's research focuses on natural buffers for mitigating infectious diseases that threaten coral reefs in coastal regions.





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UCI Brilliant Future Presentation: Dr Joleah Lamb




Dr. Lamb is currently a NatureNet Fellow at Cornell University with The Nature Conservancy and holds a PhD in Tropical Marine Ecology and Fisheries Biology from James Cook University in Australia. As a marine disease ecologist, her current research focuses on identifying and assessing natural buffers for mitigating infectious diseases that threaten coral reefs and human livelihoods in developing coastal regions. To do this she employs a variety of field-based sampling methods, remote sensing tools and microbial sequencing techniques.

Dr. Lamb’s previous research revealed the impacts of marine-based industries on the development of diseases that devastate reef-building corals – including dredging for coastal development and natural resource extraction, mass tourism, and fishing. She also examined whether existing coral reef management strategies are effective for mitigating marine diseases, such as the use of marine protected areas. Her research on the Great Barrier Reef lead to the first study to demonstrate that marine protected areas are effective for mitigating coral disease outbreaks by directly displacing human activities.

Aligning with the many goals of the CCRES project, Dr. Lamb is ultimately interested in promoting the conservation of ecosystem health by valuing the economic benefits of services provided by nature and offering practical solutions for managing the balance between development and the maintenance of natural areas. She has extensive experience working on coral reefs in Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines.

Areas of Expertise (6)

Coral Reefs Ecosystems

Conservation Biology

Ocean Health

Ocean Pollution

Disease Ecology

Marine Protected Areas

Accomplishments (3)

Early Career Fellow (professional)

2020 Ecological Society of America

Outstanding Science & Engineering Early Career Alumni Award (professional)

2018 James Cook University

University Dean's Scholar (professional)

2014 Australian Institute of Marine Science & James Cook University

Education (3)

James Cook University: PhD, Marine Biology 2014

James Cook University: MS, Tropical Marine Ecology & Fisheries Biology 2009

University of Oregon: BS, Biology 2005

Media Appearances (6)

Gov. Newsom signs new law taking aim at single-use plastics

KCBS Radio  


Governor Newsom signed a new law yesterday that limits plastics in the state and is widely considered the most comprehensive legislation aimed at reducing plastic pollution. The law will reduce plastic packaging and limit single-use plastics across the state. For more, KCBS Radio news anchors Megan Goldsby and Bret Burkhart spoke with Joleah Lamb, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California Irvine.

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The Surprising Scale of the Seagrass Sanitation Service

Hakai Magazine  online


Several years ago, a spate of illnesses hit the members of Joleah Lamb’s dive team. Lamb, a marine ecologist at the University of California, Irvine, was investigating coral disease in Indonesia with her colleagues when they were afflicted by dysentery, a type of gastroenteritis. This common ailment can be caused by ingesting water contaminated with bacterial pathogens such as Enterococcus. Though symptoms are usually mild, gastroenteritis can be fatal. Each year, gastroenteritis and related illnesses kill millions of people around the world—particularly children under the age of five. Lamb and her colleagues’ experience led to a scientific discovery: the concentrations of Enterococcus pathogens that can cause gastroenteritis are lower in some parts of the ocean than in others. Notably, gastroenteritis-causing pathogens are less common among seagrass meadows.

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The thick of it: Delving into the neglected global impacts of human waste

Mongabay  online


This isn’t an isolated case of ecosystem degradation. Joleah Lamb, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine, who led the Myanmar research, is carrying out a similar study in the Seattle area in collaboration with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Cornell University, and the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Previously, she says, anti-depressants, chemotherapy drugs, heart medications and opioids have been found in Seattle area mussels, potentially linked to wastewater treatment plants and combined sewer overflows.

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Half of the World’s Coastal Sewage Pollution Flows from Few Dozen Places

Scientific American  online


But the impacts of human sewage receive far less attention, says Joleah Lamb, a marine scientist at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the study. Part of the reason may be that, unlike trash or oil spills, sewage can be invisible in the water. “I’ve been taken to beaches that look beautiful and clean,” Lamb says. “But then we start testing the water, and there are significant levels of human pathogens in the water.”

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Marine researchers focus on the tiniest victims of Orange County oil spill

Los Angeles Times  online


The scientific effort to understand how spilled oil affects Southern California's coastal environment has suddenly become a hot topic of study at UC Irvine, where microbiologist Joleah Lamb and her students are collecting samples of seawater and kelp at nearby Newport Bay so that they can analyze and catalog the types, sizes and compositions of contaminants they contain. "Every ecosystem on Earth—from the human gut to oceans and wetlands—has been colonized by a microbiome that is important to its well-being and health," Lamb said. "And that is where oil spills in the ocean have their biggest and potentially longest lasting impacts—the microbial worlds that produce half the oxygen we breathe and decompose organic matter."

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Wildlife official: 4 oiled birds collected so far in OC spill, 1 euthanized

Spectrum News 1  online


Joleah Lamb, a UC Irvine professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said the damage from the spill could last for year and is difficult to gauge. The impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 are still being felt, Lamb told City News Service. "I think 'cleaning up' is a phrase that is overstated in both cases," Lamb said. "Even after Exxon Valdez 32 years later we're still seeing tremendous effects on those beaches. Even if we think we're cleaning it up there's a lot of subsurface chemicals, particulates on the ocean floor."

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Articles (5)

Coastal urbanization influences human pathogens and microdebris contamination in seafood

Science of The Total Environment

Raechel A Littman, Evan A Fiorenza, Amelia S Wenger, Kathryn LE Berry, Jeroen AJM van de Water, Lily Nguyen, Soe Tint Aung, Daniel M Parker, Douglas N Rader, C Drew Harvell, Joleah B Lamb

2020 Seafood is one of the leading imported products implicated in foodborne outbreaks worldwide. Coastal marine environments are being increasingly subjected to reduced water quality from urbanization and leading to contamination of important fishery species. Given the importance of seafood exchanged as a global protein source, it is imperative to maintain seafood safety worldwide.

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Science-based solutions to plastic pollution

One Earth

T Galloway, M Haward, SA Mason, JO Babayemi, BD Hardesty, S Krause, J Lamb, IA Hinojosa, A Horton

2020 Galloway, T and Haward, M and Mason, SA and Babayemi, JO and Hardesty, BD and Krause, S and Lamb, J and Hinojosa, IA and Horton, A, Science-based solutions to plastic pollution, One Earth, 2 pp. 5-7. ISSN 2590-3330 (2020) [Non Refereed Article]

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Plastics and Shallow Water Coral Reefs: Synthesis of the Science for Policy-Makers,

UN Environment Programme

Michael Sweet, M Stelfox, Joleah B Lamb

2019 The overall purpose of this brief is to provide policy and management recommendations for addressing and reducing the impacts of plastics on shallow water coral reefs, based on current scienti c knowledge. In doing so, the brief will contribute to achieving the related global, national and regional goals and targets, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Social–environmental drivers inform strategic management of coral reefs in the Anthropocene

Nature Ecology & Evolution volume

2019 Without drastic efforts to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate globalized stressors, tropical coral reefs are in jeopardy. Strategic conservation and management requires identification of the environmental and socioeconomic factors driving the persistence of scleractinian coral assemblages—the foundation species of coral reef ecosystems. Here, we compiled coral abundance data from 2,584 Indo-Pacific reefs to evaluate the influence of 21 climate, social and environmental drivers on the ecology of reef coral assemblages.

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Reduced diversity and stability of coral-associated bacterial communities and suppressed immune function precedes disease onset in corals

Royal Society Open Science

F. Joseph Pollock, Joleah B. Lamb, Jeroen A. J. M. van de Water, Hillary A. Smith, Britta Schaffelke, Bette L. Willis and David G. Bourne

2019 Disease is an emerging threat to coral reef ecosystems worldwide, highlighting the need to understand how environmental conditions interact with coral immune function and associated microbial communities to affect holobiont health. Increased coral disease incidence on reefs adjacent to permanently moored platforms on Australia's Great Barrier Reef provided a unique case study to investigate environment–host–microbe interactions in situ. Here, we evaluate coral-associated bacterial community (16S rRNA amplicon sequencing), immune function (protein-based prophenoloxidase-activating system), and water quality parameters before, during and after a disease event.

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