What do you find most exciting about this project?
One of the most exciting questions I’m hoping to answer with this research is whether we can predict which corals are going to do better under warming ocean temperatures. Coral reefs, as a whole, are struggling to keep up with changing environmental conditions — including temperature fluctuations — but there may be some hope that certain species are able to acclimatize and adapt faster than we think. This study is just one way to help us determine corals’ resiliency to these pressures.
How did you get the coral fragments used in this study?
I received the coral fragments in January 2019 from my colleague Chris Jury, whose long-term experiment was concluding. Conveniently enough, his lab is located right next to ours on Coconut Island!
About three years ago, Chris harvested the “parent” corals from Kaneohe Bay and elsewhere around Oahu. At the time, they were small fragments. Today, some are the size of dinner platters. He grows the corals in outdoor tanks, so they receive the same flow-through seawater and natural sunlight as the corals in Kaneohe Bay. The difference is, the tanks allow him to manipulate the water temperature and pH regime (make it more acidic or basic).
For both the brown rice coral and blue rice coral species, one parent coral was grown in water with a low temperature and low pH; another in low temperature and high pH; a third in high temperature, low pH; and the last in high temperature, high pH. I am following those same individual genotypes as Chris labeled. I’m interested to see if their growth is maintained or reversed, if there are any long-term impacts from the different conditions in which they were grown, and if they will grow at the same rate when exposed to the same ocean conditions.
From each of the parent corals (there are several per treatment), I made five small fragments. To the best of my ability, I tried to cut them to about the same size. Most are small enough to easily fit in the palm of my hand.