Loretta Roberson

Director, Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainability, UPR Río Piedras

Director, UPRRP Puerto Rico Center for Environmental Neuroscience

MBL Fellow, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA

Loretta Roberson

Contact Information

Office: CN-230 (second floor of Natural Sciences)

Office Phone: (787) 764-0000, ext. 1-4796

Laboratory: CN-118  Lab phone: (787) 764-0000, ext. 1-2713

Email: Loretta.Roberson@gmail.com

Professional Preparation

California State University, Northridge Biology B.S. 1994
Stanford University, Stanford, CA Biological Sciences Ph.D. 2001
California State University, Northridge Plant Ecophysiology Postdoctorate 2002-03

Research Interests:

Anthropogenic impacts on coastal marine communities; physiology, ecology, and evolution of eelgrass and coral reef communities; the ecology and evolution of RNA editing in eelgrass and algae; marine biomechanics; biofuel production.

Puerto Rico provides a unique opportunity to study the interacting effects of biological and physical factors, including anthropogenic factors, on tropical marine ecosystems. Puerto Rico is one of the most densely populated islands in the world with over 500 km of coastline. My work in Puerto Rico has three main directions: (1) understanding coral calcification mechanisms by coupling neurophysiological techniques with ecology and environmental science; (2) measuring the distribution of pollutants in the watersheds of the San Juan metropolitan area and their sublethal impacts on local flora and fauna; and (3) growth potential of macroalgae for use as biomass in biofuel production and bioremediation. These three areas require a highly interdisciplinary approach and will provide critical information for predicting coastal ecosystem trajectories as disturbances from human encroachment and storm activity increase in the region.

Our lab participates in the Puerto Rico Center for Environmental Neuroscience (PRCEN), a partnership between Environmental Science, Chemistry, and Biology at UPRRP and the Institute of Neurobiology at UPRMS; the UPRRP Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainability; the EPA Region 2 Caribbean Science Consortium; and SeagrassNet, the Global Seagrass Monitoring Program.

Team Larvae



Current projects:

  1. Coral calcification mechanisms (L. Roberson, J. Rosenthal, G. Yudowski, and A. Sabat)
  2. Presence and distribution of Emerging Contaminants in the San Juan Bay Estuary, Puerto Rico (L. Roberson, L. Diaz, and S. Leonardi, UPR Mayaguez and CariCOOS)
  3. Detection and bioremediation of personal care products in estuary systems (L. Roberson, L. Diaz, R. Palai, Dept of Physics UPRRP, and Z. Flores, Dept of Biology UPRRP)
  4. Bioaccumulation of contaminants in estuary trophic webs (L. Roberson, L. Diaz, and B. Brooks, Baylor University)
  5. Impact of pollutants, eutrophication, and hypoxia on the distribution and abundance of fish and blue crabs in a tropical estuary system (L. Roberson and T. Grothues, Rutgers University)
  6. Seafood consumption advisories ( L. Roberson, L. Diaz,  J. Bauza, San Juan Bay Estuary Program, and C. Lilyestrom, PR Dept of Natural and Environmental Resources)
  7. Neurotoxic effects of pollutants on the nervous system of organisms in the San Juan Bay Estuary (L. Roberson and S. Zottoli, Williams College and the MBL)
  8. Impact of contaminants on algal productivity, co-products and production of biofuel
  9. Habitat and biodiversity mapping for the determination of algal biomass aquaculture sites in coastal areas of Puerto Rico



Sanchez, M., S. Zottoli, and L. Roberson,  Impact of Hypoxia on Startle Response (C-start) of Fish in a Tropical Urban Estuary, poster presented at ASLO  February 2016

Roberson, L. and J. Rosenthal, A Comparative Transcriptomics Approach To Understanding Calcification In Corals, poster presented at ASLO  February 2014

- Roberson, L.M. 2007. Materials: Strength. In: Gaines, S.D. and M.W. Denny (eds.) Encyclopedia of Tidepools and Rocky Shores, University of California Press.

- L.P. Keegan, J.J. Rosenthal, L.M. Roberson, and M.A. O'Connell (2007). Purification and assay of ADAR activity. In: Gott, J. (ed.) Methods in Enzymology: RNA Editing and Modification, Elsevier.

- Roberson, L.M. and J.J.C. Rosenthal. 2006. An accurate fluorescent assay for quantifying the extent of RNA editing. RNA. 12:1-6.

- Roberson, L.M. and J.A. Coyer. 2004. Variation in blade morphology of the kelp Eisenia arborea: Incipient speciation due to local water motion? Marine Ecology Progress Series 282: 115-128

- M.W. Denny and L.M. Roberson. 2002. Blade motion and nutrient flux to the kelp, Eisenia arborea. Biological Bulletin 203:1-13

- Roberson, L.M. 2001. Evolution of kelp morphology in response to local physical factors: The effect of small-scale water flow on nutrient uptake, growth, and speciation in the southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, pp. 255

Facilities and equipment

Indoor (612 sq.ft.) and outdoor (535 sq.ft) aquaculture facilities with 2 950-gallon outdoor tanks, 2 50-gallon outdoor tanks, 4 129-gallon bioreactors, 444 gallons total of medium culture tanks, 288 gallons total of small culture tanks (5 to 20-gallon aquaria), and numerous smaller tank systems and supplies needed for marine aquaculture. A Sontek FlowTracker Handheld Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter is available for flow measurements in tanks and shallow streams.

Equipment necessary to measure algal and coral physiology and growth and analytical equipment for water quality analysis including a SmartChem Discrete Analyzer, CHNSO Analyzer, GC-MS, accelerated solvent extractor, UV/VIS spectrometers, an ICP-MS, Atomic Absorption Spectrometer, an automated total alkalinity titrator, an underwater pulse-amplitude modulated fluorometer (Diving PAM), dual chamber Rank Brothers oxygen electrode system, portable dissolved oxygen sensors, underwater light sensors and loggers, portable turbidometers and colorimeters, analytical balances, drying ovens, temperature-controlled water baths, a Gryphon Aquasaw for coral fragmentation, and an underwater camera for rapid surveys. A Nikon AZ100 Multizoom multi-purpose zoom fluorescent microscope system is available for imaging from 5x to 400x.

Equipment necessary for fish behavior and growth studies include a sound test chamber with high speed video camera and a Buehler isomet low-speed saw for otolith sectioning.

Several computers are available for advanced computing and software for GIS (ArcGIS) and molecular analysis (VectorNTI), along with an Intel Xeon E5-4620 Sandy Bridge 2.2 GHz Eight Core 32nm CPU with 1 TB of memory and 16 TB of storage for transcriptomics/genomics housed at the HPCF.

Magueyes Island, UPR Mayaguez




CIAM 6117 Coastal Environments A blended online/classroom graduate level course focusing on anthropogenic impacts on the environment, environmental problems caused by such interactions, and strategies for promoting sustainable development in the coastal zone.

CIAM 4990 Research for Undergraduates

Current Students


Xochitl Perez (PhD) Xochitl Perez

Mayra Sanchez

Mayra Sanchez (MS)

Neidibel Martinez (MS)

Alexander Rodríguez (PhD)

Michael Marty (MS)


Gabriel Falcon

Vanessa Santiago

Frances Gomez

Valeria Arana

Paola Davila

Illianiz Roman


Group shot