College of Science

Jennifer L Salerno, PhD

Assistant Professor, Environmental Microbiology, Marine Biology, Coral Reef Ecology

Faculty Directory

Research Focus

Dr. Salerno is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy where she teaches Environmental Microbiology and Coral Reef Ecology courses. Her research interests focus on symbiotic and free-living microorganisms and the role that they play in maintaining and destabilizing organism health and ecosystem function. Recognizing the important link between human health and ecosystem health, this research is approached through the lens of seeking to advance basic science, while also developing environmental monitoring tools, practical applications, and policy guidance for environmental resource management and conservation. Dr. Salerno uses traditional microbiological techniques, as well as molecular biology, next generation sequencing, bioinformatics, and microscopy to characterize microbial (bacterial, archaeal, and fungal) diversity and function in organismal and environmental microbiomes and how they respond to environmental change (temperature, sedimentation, chemical exposure). Previous projects have focused on characterizing the biogeography of bacterial communities associated with reef-building corals in the Pacific and how these communities respond to environmental change; the transmission and nutritional contribution of bacterial symbionts in deep-sea bivalves; mapping the microspatial distribution of soil microorganisms; and the impacts of hydrocarbons and chemical dispersant on the structure and function of deep-sea coral and shipwreck microbial communities. The Salerno Laboratory is currently working on projects pertaining to coral disease, impacts of stream restoration on forest oil microbes, and microbes as biological indicators of aquatic health.

Dr. Salerno also engages in science communication and interdisciplinary work at the intersection of science, policy, and diplomacy. She previously worked on coastal and ocean issues in the U.S. House of Representatives as a NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Fellow and served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Office of Economic Policy. In this capacity she advised and coordinated U.S. policy on science and technology, energy, and oceans issues across U.S. federal agencies and in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Current Projects
  • Molecular and Microscopic Investigation of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease on Florida’s Reef


Phone: 703-993-3457




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