Center for Water and the Environment

Cawa Tran

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

Research Interests 

Dr. Tran and her students are interested in the molecular & cellular mechanisms mediating symbiosis between cnidarians, dinoflagellates, and bacteria. They use an integrative approach that includes aspects of ecophysiology, microbial ecology, and cell biology to investigate host-microbe interactions in the sea anemone Aiptasia (Exaiptasia pallida), a laboratory model for understanding coral symbiosis and bleaching.

Research Projects

Current research projects within the Dr. Tran’s laboratory include:

  • Determining the mechanisms underlying the establishment, maintenance, and breakdown of the cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis
  • Characterizing the Aiptasia microbiome and bacterial community changes in response to environmental stress
  • Studying the photobiology of marine invertebrates to determine how the animal host and its algal symbionts detect and respond to light


Xiang T, Jinkerson RE, Clowez S, Tran C, Krediet CJ, Onishi M, Cleves PA, Pringle JR,

Grossman AR (2017) Glucose-induced trophic shift in Symbiodinium and its physiological and molecular consequences. Plant Physiology pp-01572.

Tran C and Hadfield MG (2013) Localization of sensory mechanisms utilized by coral planulae to detect settlement cues. Invertebrate Biology 132:195-206.

Tran C and Hadfield MG (2012) Are G-protein coupled receptors involved in mediating larval settlement and metamorphosis of coral planulae? Biological Bulletin 222:128-136.

Tran C and Hadfield MG (2011) Larvae of Pocillopora damicornis (Anthozoa) settle and metamorphose in response to surface-biofilm bacteria. Marine Ecology Progress Series 433:85-96.

Zardus JD, Nedved BT, Huang Y, Tran C, Hadfield MG (2008) Microbial biofilms facilitate adhesion in biofouling invertebrates. Biological Bulletin 214:91-98. 

Research Area

Climate, Ecology, Water, Marine symbiosis