Ruth Gates

Researcher and Director, Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology

The Biology of Corals and the Evolution of Animal Sensory Systems




HIMB Pauley 107


(808) 236-7420


(808) 236-7443

Research Interests

My overarching interest lies in the biological mechanisms and traits that drive the ability of marine organisms to respond to changes in their environment. Using tools drawn from the fields of molecular biology, developmental genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, organismal physiology and ecology, and focusing on marine invertebrates, my research explores questions that relate to two specific areas. The first examines the mechanisms that underlie the flexibility and/or sensitivity of coral-dinoflagellate symbioses to their environment. In this work, I emphasize a combination of field and laboratory approaches to address questions at multiple scales of resolution. This research is aimed at both expanding our basic understanding of these complex reef organisms and identifying novel tools with utility in conserving coral reef ecosystems into the future. My second research area explores the evolution of animal sensory systems. In this capacity, I exploit genetic databases and the primary literature to identify gene candidates that play pivotal roles in the sensory development of flies, nematodes and model vertebrates e.g mouse. Once identified, I attempt to isolate and characterize these genes in more ancient organisms, such as corals and sponges, with the goal of evaluating their ancestral function and ultimately attaining a more detailed understanding of the evolution of biological systems that lie at the very heart of the animal condition.

Selected Publications

Edmunds, P. J. and R. D. Gates. 2003. Has coral bleaching delayed our understanding of fundamental aspects of coral-dinoflagellate symbioes? BioScience 53(10): 976-980.

Jacobs, D. J. and R. D. Gates. 2003. Developmental genes and the reconstruction of metazoan evolution - implications of evolutionary loss, limits on inference of ancestry and type 2 errors. Integrative and Comparative Biology 43: 11-18.

Lee, S. E.; Gates, R. D. and Jacobs, D. K. 2003. Gene fishing: the use of a simple protocol to isolate multiple homeodomain classes from diverse invertebrate taxa. Journal of Molecular Evolution 56: 509-516l