Dr. Cynthia Lewis

 Dr. Cynthia Lewis
Board Member

Dr. Cynthia Lewis is the Director of the Florida Keys Marine Laboratory (KML), a full-service marine field station operated under Florida Institute of Oceanography and located in the city of Layton, FL. Originally from central New York, Dr. Lewis received her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University where she worked as a parasitologist at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. She became SCUBA certified in 1998 which sparked an interest in the mosaic of coral reef life and propelled her into pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Buffalo. Guided by mentor Dr. Mary Alice Coffroth, her masters research focused on coral-algal symbiosis which included extensive field experience in stony coral and soft coral reproduction and spawning in Florida and the Caribbean.

After moving to the Florida Keys in 2006, first working as a field biologist with Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and then lead scientist at KML since 2008, Dr. Lewis later embarked on a PhD program at Florida International University under Dr. Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty, graduating in 2019. Her dissertation focus was the effects of hyperthermal stress on coral symbiosis, bleaching, disease, and the microbiome in the federally listed pillar coral, Dendrogyra cylindrus. Information gained from her work with pillar coral since 2014 has prompted the establishment of ex situ genetic rescue nurseries for this critically threatened species, involving multiple federal, state, and local partners. Dr. Lewis and her many collaborators piloted initial disease treatment studies on pillar coral which later expanded to include other coral species impacted by stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) throughout the Caribbean and have numerous peer-reviewed publications on these topics.

Dr. Lewis is the KML delegate to the Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean (AMLC) and maintains active scientific diver status with the American Academy of Underwater Science (AAUS) and is a NAUI Dive Master. Other community involvement includes councilwoman on the Layton City Council, municipality representative to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, South Florida Coral Disease Advisory Council participant, member of Leadership Monroe County Class XXVIII, and board member/treasurer/musician in the Florida Keys Community Concert Band.

As lead scientist and director of KML, Dr. Lewis has enjoyed the opportunity to share her passion for ocean conservation and reef restoration with countless undergraduate and graduate students passing through KML on their education journey, often serving as role model and mentor. She enjoys participating in coral outplanting activities and beach cleanup events and is engaged and supportive of reef restoration efforts in the Florida Keys.