About Our Lab

The CEE Lab investigates the ways that an organism’s physical traits – also known as its phenotype – are produced and modified by genetic and environmental effects. We study how these ecological interactions mold and are molded by the evolutionary tracks of populations and species. Our Lab also values translational ecology: turning scientific findings into tools for conservation management.

We use a variety of methods to explore these topics, ranging from field experiments to genomic analyses, and more. Find additional information about recent work on the ‘Research’ and ‘Publications’ pages.

Follow us on Instagram @CEELabUSC or Twitter @DrCarlsHorn for lab news in real-time!

In this lab, we believe…

*Graphic reproduced and modified with permission from Sammy Katta

The CEE Lab occupies the traditional and unceded lands of the Chumash, Gabrieleno/Tongva and Kizh peoples, whereas our Florida Keys research occurs on the ancestral homelands of the Calusa, Tequesta, and Seminole peoples. We acknowledge and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Ongoing Research Projects

Local Adaptation

Marine environments can vary widely, even over small areas. We aim to understand how cnidarians specialize to local habitats, despite their wide dispersal potential. We are especially interested in ecosystems where spatial environmental changes mimic predicted patterns of global change. These include subtidal temperature gradients in the Florida Keys, CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea, and the volatile environment of California’s rocky intertidal.


Cooperative interactions between species have played a fundamental role in the evolution of life, but there’s still much to learn about how these relationships develop and persist, especially in the face of rapid environmental change. We’re using field and lab-based studies to study algal, bacterial, and even fungal partners of corals and anemones.

Translational Ecology

The current rate of climate change is threatening ecosystems worldwide. In addition to the loss of critical services, we also face losing unique aspects of their biology, which fuel scientific discovery. A significant part of our work focuses on supporting ecosystem management with science. We have helped form guides for coral reef restoration, & developed methods for investigating the dynamics of harmful algal blooms.

The CEE Lab’s latest NSF-funded project:

The Role of Adaptive Plasticity in Coral Response to Climate Change

Plasticity is the ability of an organism’s genes to produce a range of physical traits in answer to environmental changes. Climate change threatens many populations because existing traits may be poorly suited to new and rapidly changing conditions. Whether or not populations persist will depend on their ability to adapt to new and evolving habitats. This project aims to understand the role plasticity plays in adaptation to natural environments from the underlying genetic functions that produce plasticity to how coral plasticity impacts reef ecosystems. Watch the video below to find out more!

Contact Us



AHF 231
3616 Trousdale Pkwy
Los Angeles, CA 90089


Principal Investigator:
Carly Kenkel
Email: ckenkel@usc.edu



Website design by Savannah Masters (masterss@usc.edu)