NCCOS Staff

Cheryl Woodley

Research Microbiologist
Hollings Marine Laboratory
Key Species and Bioinformatics

Dr. Woodley leads the Coral Health & Disease Program in the Key Species and Bioinformatics Branch. Her Program applies biomedical concepts and technologies to understand how physical, chemical and/or biological stressors affect the health of coral and other marine organisms by assessing the resulting pathologies and physiological dysfunctions. Dr. Woodley also oversees a dedicated coral aquaculture facility that provides a renewable source of research specimens for the Program.

Dr. Woodley joined NOAA in 1990. During her tenure, she led investigations in seafood safety associated with Norwalk virus and led a Marine Biotechnology Program (including marine forensics). Her research direction shifted to coral health and disease in 2000, in response to the Coral Reef Conservation Act. With expertise in biochemistry, cellular biology and pathobiology, Dr. Woodley now leads a multidisciplinary research team aimed at understanding the effects of physical, chemical and/or biological risk factors affecting conservation and management of vulnerable marine ecosystems. Though primarily focusing on shallow-water coral reefs, the research is broadly applied to other keystone species in near shore marine environments (i.e., oyster reefs, sea urchins). Specific areas of interest include coral reproduction, disease pathologies and treatment, ecotoxicology, and diagnostic assay development.

Dr. Woodley serves as the coordinator for the Coral Disease and Health Consortium (CDHC), part of the U. S. Coral Reef Taskforce and also serves on the Disease Advisory Committee for stony coral tissue loss disease. Dr. Woodley holds an adjunct graduate faculty position at the College of Charleston, mentoring graduate students and serving on committees. She is co-editor of a comprehensive reference book, Diseases of Coral, and co-authored over 70 publications. Dr. Woodley was recognized by the DOC with the Bronze Award (2018) and again as part of a group (NOS, NMFS, OAR) award in 2020 for contributions related to the devastating coral disease outbreak of stony coral tissue loss disease. Dr. Woodley recently (2021-2022) served on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee that reviewed the state of the science for sunscreen UV filters in aquatic environments and implications on public health for any resulting changes in usage.

Dr. Woodley received her B.A. degree in Biology with a minor in Biochemistry from Winthrop College in 1977. After teaching 8th grade science, she entered a new interdisciplinary program at the Medical University of South Carolina where she received her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathobiology from the Biochemistry Department in 1984. After a post-doctoral fellowship at MUSC, she taught undergraduates at the College of Charleston, before joining NOAA, where she received specialized training in virology at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.

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