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Joleah Lamb - UC Irvine. Irvine, CA, US

Joleah Lamb 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 (5)

UCI biologist seeking to save coral reefs honored by Ecological Society of America

UCI News  online


Joleah Lamb, a UCI biologist who studies the impact of infectious diseases on the oceans, has been named an Early Career Fellow by the Ecological Society of America, the world’s largest association of professional ecologists. Early Career Fellows are chosen based on their advanced ecological knowledge and applications as well as potential to make notable ongoing contributions to the field. In honoring Lamb, the ESA cited her “transformative environmental research and outstanding contributions to science communication at the interface of ecosystem function and public health, particularly solutions-based research” into tropical seagrass meadows, coral reef health and how plastics are causing infectious disease in corals. “The award is very motivating, because it shows this research is important and could help shape policy and lives,” said Lamb, an assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology. “Our oceans are facing a crisis due to human impacts that can only be solved by large-scale global teamwork.” Lamb contributed one of the largest datasets, encompassing over 1 million corals, to a landmark 2019 study of how to save reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Researchers found that more than half have the potential to be restored if action is taken immediately.

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After 13 years of research, scientists know how to save the world's coral reefs

World Economic Forum  online


When Joleah Lamb strapped on a scuba tank and plunged into the ocean over a decade ago, it was the first of many expeditions to examine the effects of climate change and other human-produced factors on coral.

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Study examines a million corals one by one in urgent call to save reefs

UCI News  online


When Joleah Lamb strapped on a scuba tank and plunged into the ocean over a decade ago, it was the first of many expeditions to examine the effects of climate change and other human-produced factors on coral.

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Underwater sleuth

UCI News  online


Before she turned into a deep-sea detective, Joleah Lamb herded fruit flies, groomed dogs and extracted blood from humans.

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UCI ecologist co-authors UN Environment report on impact of plastics on coral reefs

UCI News  online


The global fight against ocean plastic pollution will come into sharp focus at the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly this month in Nairobi, Kenya, with Joleah Lamb, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology at UCI, making a key contribution. Lamb, who studies how diseases affect coral reefs, is co-author of a report being released at the assembly titled Plastics and Shallow Water Coral Reefs. The document spotlights current science on the subject and provides recommendations to policymakers for addressing and reducing plastics’ impacts. Lamb is a marine disease ecologist who identifies strategies for mitigating outbreaks of infectious diseases that threaten ocean and human health. A pioneer in the field, she helped discover that plastics, which make up 60 to 80 percent of marine litter, can carry microbes that can sicken and kill corals. Lamb is encouraged that the U.N. is taking this global issue to heart. “We’re finding that countries which properly control the amount of plastic entering the oceans also have healthier reefs,” she said. “But it’s an issue the world needs to address together.” The report is just a start for Lamb, who’s planning a large-scale study of how pathogens move around in the oceans, with a focus on the biosecurity threat that plastic litter can present.

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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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