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I fell in love with the ocean early in my childhood – I never wanted to get out of the water! When I got to snorkel for the first time I was completely captivated by the underwater world and the beautiful organisms living in coral reef ecosystems. That fascination sparked an interest in biology, and later, a desire to understand the diverse symbiotic relationships that are the basis for these ecosystems. My research is primarily focused on the microbial symbioses found in cnidarian hosts, including the northern star coral Astrangia poculata, and the upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana. I love including undergraduates in my research, and learning from the new ideas they bring to the table. By combining field research, functional ecology, and next-generation sequencing approaches we can gain a deeper understanding of these complex marine symbioses.


Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut
M.S. in Biology, Northeastern University
B.A. in Biological Sciences, Smith College

Research Interests

  • Host-microbe interactions

  • Functional mechanisms of symbiosis

  • Environmental impacts on marine symbiotic systems

  • The upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana

  • The Northern star coral Astrangia poculata

Recent Courses

  • BIO 1111: Principles of Biology

  • BIO 3T01: Symbiosis

Selected Publications

  • Kerwin, A.H., and S.V. Nyholm. 2018. Reproductive system symbiotic bacteria are conserved between two populations of Euprymna scolopes from Oahu, Hawaii. mSphere 3(2): e00531-17.

  • Sharp, K.H., Z.A. Pratte, A.H. Kerwin, R.D. Rotjan, and F.J. Stewart. 2017. Season, but not symbiont state, drives microbiome structure in the temperate coral Astrangia poculata. Microbiome 5:120.

  • Kerwin, A.H. and S.V. Nyholm. 2017. Symbiotic bacteria associated with a bobtail squid reproductive system are detectable in the environment, and stable in the host and developing eggs. Environmental Microbiology 19(4):1463-1475.

  • Dimond, J.L., A.H. Kerwin, R. Rotjan, K. Sharp, F.J. Stewart, and D.J. Thornhill. 2013. A simpletemperature-based model predicts the upper latitudinal limit of the temperate coral Astrangiapoculata. Coral Reefs 32(2):401-409.

  • Perkins, S.L., A.S. Kerwin, and A.D. Rothschild. 2009. Patterns of infection of the lizard malaria parasite, Plasmodium floridense, in invasive brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) in Southwestern Florida. Parasitology Research 104(5):1191-1196.

Awards and Honors

  • Penn State Student Engagement Network Grant to Leslie Johnson (undergraduate mentee)

  • Penn State Science Engagement Research Grant to Kate Karlen (undergraduate mentee)

  • Animal-Microbe Symbioses Gordon Research Conference Award for Best Posters

  • University of Connecticut Summer Undergraduate Research Fund Award to Jessica Bertenshaw (undergraduate mentee)

  • Antonio H. & Marjorie J. Romano Graduate Education Fellowship

  • University of Connecticut Graduate Research Award for Student Presentation

  • University of Connecticut Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship