Saturday, August 8, 2015

Philanthropy Group Donates $3.9 Million for Coral Research

Australian Institute of Marine ScienceResearcher Madeleine van Oppen collects coral fragments for her breeding project.
In Hawaii this summer, as corals engage in their once-a-year courtship ritual of releasing sperm and eggs into the water by moonlight, Ruth Gates will oversee a unique mating: the coming together of “super-corals” in her lab.

Gates and her team at the Institute of Marine Biology in Kaneohe tagged corals in their local waters that thrived through a heinous hot spell last September. A few of those rugged specimens will be picked for arranged marriages this month, hopefully yielding some offspring even better suited to thriving in the warmer waters of the future. It will be, she thinks, the first selective mating of corals to try to help them thrive in the face of climate change.

Gates and her colleague, Madeleine van Oppen at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, have been awarded $3.9 million from Paul G. Allen’s philanthropic organization Vulcan Inc. for this and other work into the “assisted evolution” of corals — an attempt to intentionally beef up the genetic stock of reefs to survive the onslaught of climate change.

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