Marine Natural Products Lab

Kerr Research Group
Home / Kerr Research Group / Lab Members / Alumni / Veronica Robertson

Veronica Robertson

Research Concept:

 Alcyonacean octocorals (Order, Alcyonacea, ammended from the order, Gorgoniidae1) are predominant on Caribbean reefs. Specifically, the octocoral Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae has a moderate distribution in the West Indies and resides in tropical forereefs at depths of 5 - 35 m.  This coral has been the subject of numerous natural product investigations, yet very little is known regarding the community and diversity of its symbiotic bacterial assemblages.  Furthermore, P. elisabethae is the sole known source of pseudopterosins, biologically active diterpene glycosides marketed in Estée Lauder cosmetics with a market value of $3 - 4 million. Despite the economic and environmental importance of this alcyonacean2, the bacterial community of P. elisabethae has not been addressed. Consequently, my research goal is to add to the scientific  understanding of bacterial communities using culture-independent and culture-dependent techniques.


Research Aims:

 My research has three areas of focus, which are entirely based on the bacterial community of P. elisabethae as follows:

1) To characterize the bacterial community of P. elisabethae using a culture-independent approachBy describing the bacterial community using 16S rRNA gene sequencing, the "great plate" anomaly, which states that less than 1% of bacteria are amenable to cultivation, can be mitigated to determine the true bacterial diversity associated with octocorals. 

2) To characterize the culturable bacterial community in P. elisabethaeThe cultivation of bacterial symbionts may lead to the isolation of novel secondary metabolites with bioactive potential. We have employed diversity in media selection and the particle filtration technique as methods to increase the cultivable bacterial diversity.

3) To assess the bioactive potential of culturable isolates from P. elisabethaeBy subjecting bacterial fermentations to bioassay guided fractionation, we aim to identity novel natural products. 


·         PhD., Biomedical Sciences (2007 – present)  

-    University of Prince Edward Island, PE

·          B.Sc., Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (2003 – 2007)

-     Trent University, Peterborough, ON, Canada

I could not perform this research without the assistance of B. Haltli (M.Sc.), Dr. D. Overy, Dr. F. Berrué, and Dr. R. Kerr for his invaluable assistance during my graduate studies.



1. McFadden et al, Integr. Comp. Biol. 201050, 389 – 410.

2. Berrué and Kerr, Nat. Prod. Rep. 200926, 681 – 710.

3. Look et al, J. Org. Chem. 198651, 5140 - 5145.

3. Rohwer et al, Coral Reefs200120, 85 - 91.

4. Rosenberg et al, Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 20075, 355 - 362.