is to identify species of coral that survived where
others perished, and crossbreed them to create
more resilient coral communities and reverse
declines. But it’s not enough to have theories
about what might work, Dr. Gates says. They need
results. Project teams need to be willing to change
direction quickly when ideas don’t pan out.
To speed the process, Dr. Gates’ team is testing
multiple species simultaneously, which adds further
complexity. (Different species have different properties, requiring different handling.) Project sponsors
had a variety of key performance indicators tracked,
including number of crossbreed attempts, offspring
generated and people reached through marketing
efforts. Her team submits quarterly project progress
reports. “US$4 million is a lot of money, and they
want to be sure we are making progress,” she says.
One year into the project, they have successfully
selectively bred very hardy corals for the first time
with the goal of developing enough capacity to be
transplanted onto damaged reefs.
In Corvallis, Oregon, USA, marine ecologist George Waldbusser, PhD, approached the
problem of acidification differently. His team at
Oregon State University discovered a potential link
Coral reefs have seen much better days. From the
United States’ Gulf Coast to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, ocean water temperature and acidity levels
are rising quickly, triggering the bleaching of vast
reefs and killing much of the sea life that depends on
them. Scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence
for Coral Reef Studies estimate that over one-third
of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef’s northern and
central section is dying or dead.
To stop this global environmental disaster,
governments, private organizations and wealthy
moguls are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in projects. As they work to breed climate
change-resilient coral or mitigate acidification,
teams are wading into uncharted waters—and
pushing for real-world solutions.
“What we have to do is really translate the
urgency,” says Ruth Gates, PhD, president of the
International Society for Reef Studies and director
of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
Dr. Gates’ team is creating climate-adapted
“super” coral at the Hawaii Institute of Marine
Biology. The goal of the US$4 million, five-year
project funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen
of the coral
in the Great
is dying or