Coral Bleaching

For any of you who are interested in what I’m actually doing, I thought I’d give you an overview in to my current experiments.

My PhD is focusing on Thermal induced Rapid Coral Tissue loss or TI-RCTL! Basically when corals bleach they can follow one of two paths. Either they will lose part of themselves, which they will re-establish at a later date, or they will basically fall apart and die.

My current project is to characterize these two responses, what environmental conditions so they occur in and is there a difference across different species.

Basically I’m going to bleach some corals, and I know I hear you cry “Nooo” but don’t worry I’m not really killing then in a sense. Corals are like worms, you can chop them up and all the individual bits will live on, like a tree I’m basically cropping a few branches whilst the parent coral lives on!

At the moment I’m looking at two species Acropora and Pocillopora, I’m 90% sure that it is Pocillopora damicornis and 40% Acropora formosa, but the good thing about science is you can always send these to be identified by an expert and add the details later.

I’ve split the experiment in too two halves and have 24 corals all together. These will be further split in too three experimental treatments and one control.

My day begins at 7am and I work through till 7pm. During this time I use 5 different pieces of very expensive scientific equipment and 3 laboratories. I get 30 mins for lunch, if everything runs on time. It sounds intense but the whole experiment should take 20 days and after this I will have so much data that I won’t know what to do with myself! I hope anyway!

Out of the 24 corals I expect that 6 will definitely survive, 12 unknown and 6 will definitely die, unless I discover a super coral!

The purpose of these experiments is to try identify which environments and species are most susceptible and what conditions push them from non-lethal to lethal bleaching. In the context of climate change millions of people around the world are dependent on coral reefs and the services they provide. I have no doubt in my mind that corals will survive and adapt to live on in a changing world, however the coral reef structure will change, and the services they provide will decrease significantly. It is not a case of wanting to save coral reefs to save the species like the panda, it is more selfish than that, we need to save coral reefs to save what they give to us, what millions of people depend on, otherwise we are really just shooting ourselves in the foot!


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