Coral reef resiliency research draws high-profile investments

Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) director and coral expert Ruth Gates and her team are racing against time and climate change to breed corals that can withstand future ocean conditions and that can be used to restore and build resilience in our reefs. Part of that work involves figuring out why healthy brown corals thrive while those growing right next door turn white or bleach, a sign that signals stress. Said Gates, “Everybody is affected by it here in Hawaiʻi because the reef is intimately linked to our health and our economy.”

Gates has multi-million dollar support for her world-class research from a number of prominent sources. In August, a company formed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen called Vulcan announced a $4-million dollar investment into Gates’ and a collaborator’s research. Other support came earlier in the form of a powerful confocal microscope, funded by a million-dollar 2009 donation from philanthropist Pam Omidyar. This powerful tool provides new insights into corals and the marine microorganisms that interact with them. Healthy corals display vibrant, vivid colors. Stressed corals literally pale by comparison.

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