Joshua Voss, Ph.D., is an associate research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, as well as the executive director of NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology. His primary areas of interest include shallow and mesophotic coral reef ecology, coral health and disease, molecular ecology, marine conservation and management. Through Harbor Branch’s Robertson Coral Reef Program and CIOERT, Voss works to discover, characterize and protect coral reefs ecosystems. Voss is a certified technical diver and scuba instructor who has completed more than 1,500 scientific dives and led more than 35 scientific expeditions primarily in the Bahamas, Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas, Belize, Cuba and Gulf of Mexico, with additional investigations in Panama, Curacao, Bonaire, Dominica, USVI and St. Eustatius. He teaches undergraduate courses in the Harbor Branch Semester-by-the-Sea Program and Florida Institute of Oceanography marine field studies program, as well as graduate courses in FAU's Department of Biology and molecular workshops for high school students. He has also served on various committees including the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Coral Advisory Panel, Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative Team and as co-lead of their Technical Advisory Committee, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Technical Advisory Committee, the South Florida Marine Research Hub, and FAU’s Diving and Boating Safety Committee. After growing in central Florida, Voss attended Elon University in North Carolina and completed a B.S. in biology along with minors in philosophy and chemistry. He earned his Ph.D. in biological sciences at Florida International University in Miami, and was a member of the Marine Science faculty at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg before joining FAU Harbor Branch.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Coral Health and Disease
Coral Reef Ecosystems
Coral Reef Ecology
FAU Researcher of the Year, Florida Atlantic University
Florida International University: Ph.D., Biological Sciences 2006
Elon University: B.S., Biology 2001
Selected Media Appearances (4)
Low-cost 3D method rapidly measures disease impacts on Florida’s coral reefs
“We observed an increase in disease prevalence during the spring of 2018, which was honestly unexpected. Prevalence values for other described coral diseases such as white syndrome, white band, black band, and white pox often increase during the summer months as water temperatures increase,” said Joshua D. Voss, Ph.D., senior author, an associate research professor at FAU Harbor Branch and executive director of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology.
Common Human Antibiotic Can Heal Coral Diseases – 95% Success Rate With Amoxicillin
Good News Network online
“Success in treating stony coral tissue loss disease with antibiotics may benefit from using approaches typically successful against bacterial infections in humans—for example using a strong initial dose of antibiotics followed by a regimen of smaller supplementary doses over time,” said Joshua Voss, Ph.D., senior author, an associate research professor at FAU Harbor Branch and executive director of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology.
Florida bill would ban sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate, like Hawaii and Key West
Banning reef-harming sunscreens won't solve all the problems facing Florida's reefs, "but they can't hurt and might help," said Joshua D. Voss, a scientist at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Fort Pierce who's done extensive research on the Treasure Coast's nearshore and offshore coral reefs.
Black water plume from St. Lucie River threatens offshore coral reefs
As evidenced by a plume of black water extending out the St. Lucie Inlet into the Atlantic Ocean, coral reefs and the multitude of marine creatures that depend on them are at peril, too. Just how much the filthy water is damaging the reefs is difficult to assess, said Joshua Voss, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, "because the visibility is so poor."
Selected Articles (5)
Quantifying impacts of stony coral tissue loss disease on corals in Southeast Florida through surveys and 3D photogrammetryPLoS One
Ian R Combs, Michael S Studivan, Ryan J Eckert, Joshua D Voss
2021 Since 2014, stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) has contributed to substantial declines of reef-building corals in Florida. The emergence of this disease, which impacts over 20 scleractinian coral species, has generated a need for widespread reef monitoring and the implementation of novel survey and disease mitigation strategies. This study paired SCTLD prevalence assessments with colony-level monitoring to help improve understanding of disease dynamics on both individual coral colonies and at reef-wide scales. Benthic surveys were conducted throughout the northern Florida Reef Tract to monitor the presence/absence of disease, disease prevalence, and coral species affected by SCTLD. Observed SCTLD prevalence was lower in Jupiter and Palm Beach than in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea or St. Lucie Reef, but there were no significant changes in prevalence over time. To assess colony-level impacts of the disease, we optimized a low-cost, rapid 3D photogrammetry technique to fate-track infected Montastraea cavernosa coral colonies over four time points spanning nearly four months. Total colony area and healthy tissue area on fate-tracked colonies decreased significantly over time.
Population genetic structure of the broadcast spawning coral, Montastraea cavernosa, demonstrates refugia potential of upper mesophotic populations in the Florida KeysCoral Reefs
Alexis B Sturm, Ryan J Eckert, Ashley M Carreiro, Joshua D Voss
2021 In the Florida Keys, coral cover on shallow reef systems (0–30 m) has declined over the past several decades, punctuated by severe losses during coral disease outbreaks and bleaching events. However, certain areas within the Florida Keys, especially the Dry Tortugas and many upper mesophotic habitats (30–60 m), have maintained relatively healthy coral communities, even in the face of recent severe and widespread coral disease outbreaks. Relatively little is known about the genetic connectivity of corals among these sites or the potential for mesophotic sites to act as refugia by contributing to metapopulation recovery and persistence. Using a paired shallow and upper mesophotic sampling design, we assessed the genetic connectivity of a dominant, broadcast spawning coral species, Montastraea cavernosa, across the Northern and Southern Dry Tortugas, Lower Florida Keys, and Upper Florida Keys. A genetic dataset based on a suite of > 9000 single-nucleotide polymorphism loci indicated that the level of vertical genetic connectivity between paired shallow and upper mesophotic populations varied significantly based on location. Shallow and upper mesophotic M. cavernosa populations in the Northern Dry Tortugas and the Upper Keys were genetically similar. In contrast, populations were significantly differentiated across depth in the Lower Keys and Southern Dry Tortugas.
Assessing the effectiveness of two intervention methods for stony coral tissue loss disease on Montastraea cavernosaScientific Reports
Erin N Shilling, Ian R Combs, Joshua D Voss
2021 Stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) was first observed in Florida in 2014 and has since spread to multiple coral reefs across the wider Caribbean. The northern section of Florida’s Coral Reef has been heavily impacted by this outbreak, with some reefs experiencing as much as a 60% loss of living coral tissue area. We experimentally assessed the effectiveness of two intervention treatments on SCTLD-affected Montastraea cavernosa colonies in situ. Colonies were tagged and divided into three treatment groups: (1) chlorinated epoxy, (2) amoxicillin combined with CoreRx/Ocean Alchemists Base 2B, and (3) untreated controls. The experimental colonies were monitored periodically over 11 months to assess treatment effectiveness by tracking lesion development and overall disease status. The Base 2B plus amoxicillin treatment had a 95% success rate at healing individual disease lesions but did not necessarily prevent treated colonies from developing new lesions over time. Chlorinated epoxy treatments were not significantly different from untreated control colonies, suggesting that chlorinated epoxy treatments are an ineffective intervention technique for SCTLD. The results of this experiment expand management options during coral disease outbreaks and contribute to overall knowledge regarding coral health and disease.
Gulf of Mexico Reefs: Past, Present and FutureFrontiers in Marine Science
Rowan C Martindale, Daniel Holstein, Nancy Knowlton, Joshua D Voss, Anna M Weiss, Adrienne Correa
2021 Bounded by Cuba, Mexico, and the United States, the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) contains vast, relatively understudied modern and geological reefs. GoM reef environments are extremely valuable (Natural Resources Defense Council, 2010) but experience a range of disturbance regimes (Gil-Agudelo et al.; Cummings et al., 2018). Nevertheless, some offshore reefs remain remarkably healthy (e.g., Johnston et al., 2016). The prospects for new discoveries through the study of reefs in the GoM are extensive. To foster interdisciplinary discussions and new collaborations, the “Gulf of Mexico Reefs: Past, Present and Future Symposium” was held at Rice University in Houston (TX, USA) in 2018. This symposium brought together forty scientists (Figure 1D) from various institutions, and resulted in several (new) multi-institutional collaborations (Figures 1A,B) as well as this Special Topic, which summarizes the state-of-the-field for GoM reef systems (Figure 1C) from a transdisciplinary perspective. Below, we highlight findings from 12 contributions (11 Research Articles and 1 Opinion).
Population structure of the scleractinian coral Montastraea cavernosa in southeast FloridaBulletin of Marine Science
DL Dodge, MS Studivan, RJ Eckert, E Chei, J Beal, JD Voss
2020 The persistence of scleractinian coral populations on the Florida Reef Tract (FRT) is controlled in part by metapopulation dynamics and larval dispersal. Nine polymorphic microsatellite loci were analyzed to characterize contemporary population structure and gene flow as well as historical migration rates of Montastraea cavernosa at five sites off Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward counties in southeast Florida. The sampled populations demonstrated evidence of genetic isolation by distance over a geographic range of 85 km. Population genetic structure was divided into two genetic clusters, northern and southern, with admixture along a latitudinal gradient. Historical migration models indicated likely panmixia throughout all sites sampled, identifying a potential reduction in connectivity among the sampled populations through time. Though M. cavernosa populations demonstrated evidence of historical connectivity, contemporary patterns of isolation by distance suggest that effective management will require localized actions to maximize the likelihood of sustaining individual populations in the northern FRT. Given the results of this study, coupled with recent coral mortality events in the region, we recommend regional conservation efforts and management initiatives throughout southeast Florida within a more comprehensive FRT-wide management network.