Margaret Mars Brisbin is a Ph.D. candidate in marine science at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), which probably brings to mind frolicking dolphins and giant schools of tropical fish. But Brisbin's focus is much, much smaller: marine microeukaryotes, the photosynthetic organisms that make coral possible.
In a healthy reef, these microscopic symbionts live inside hard corals, providing the energy that powers their growth. In an unhealthy reef, stressed corals expel their tiny residents, resulting in bleaching and, eventually, death.
In 2015, Brisbin came to Okinawa to start work on her Ph.D., attracted by the research possibilities offered by the nearby reefs and long warm-water diving season.