July 17, 2009

Royal support for the reef

Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at CUNY, Baruch College and Reseach Associate, American Museum of Natural History

I’ve arrived back in NYC and Baruch College for two quick days to store coral samples at -80C. Perfect timing: I’ve just gotten word that I’ve received funding from the National Science Foundation to examine these corals and others that I collected on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. They have been shivering in cyrogenic storage at the American Museum of Natural History for a few years and I’m very excited to see what kind of unique compounds they hold –especially fluorescent proteins!

More info on the new two-year project that is about to begin:

http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=0920572

Happily, there’s increasing interest in the endangered coral reef, including right here at CUNY. In June, the Coral Reef Conservancy (CRC) was officially launched at the CUNY Macaulay Honors College. The CRC is a new campaign to help protect and conserve coral reefs around the world –with the hopes of bringing the same magnitude of attention the rainforest campaign achieved. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, attended the launch. He has been a strong advocate of coral reef conservation and is particularly interested in protecting the reefs surrounding the Cayman Islands, a British territory. Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystem in the ocean, even though they represent a tiny fraction of its area. In recent years, corals have come under increasing stress and are highly threatened. A search through the scientific articles on coral reefs in Science (one of the leading international scientific journals) is also not promising. Almost every article lists declines in coral reefs coming from an array of threats –acidification, global warming, disease, etc. If aggressive action is not taken, many coral reef scientists fear there will be few reefs to examine. The nagging question is how to conserve coral reefs? As the CRC evolves, this will a central theme.

As for me, I’m off for the next leg of my summer research expedition. Talk to you from Israel and the Red Sea.