Researchers at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) were recently awarded a $1.026 million grant from NASA to develop coral disease forecasting models for Hawaiʻi, U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. Megan Donahue, principal investigator and HIMB researcher, and Jamie Caldwell, HIMB post-doctoral fellow on the project, will lead an international team as they combine field work, experimental work, previously collected data and satellite data to predict disease risk up to six months before an expected outbreak.
Scientists Mark Eakin, Scott Heron and Bernardo Vargas-Angel from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch and Coral Reef Ecosystem Program are co-investigators on the grant, and Tracy Ainsworth and Bill Leggat of James Cook University in Australia are key participants on the four-year project.
Coral diseases are considered one of the major contributors to coral reef decline worldwide. Corals are more likely to contract diseases when they are stressed; for example, due to poor land use practices that increase runoff, and climate change, which warms the ocean.