My team is evaluating why Acorpora palmata grows much better in the Dry Tortugas, FL than in any other part of the Florida keys. We hypothesize that feeding on zooplankton and oceanographic conditions are driving the response. To evaluate this hypothesis, we teamed up with Dr. Ilsa Kuffner’s team from the USGS. Corals were grown on offshore reefs along the Florida Reef track and at the Dry Tortugas for two years. In October and November 2020, we joined the USGS team to collect samples of the corals as well as zooplankton and seawater samples. We are in the process of analyzing those samples.
My team is conducting a two-year long experiment in Hawaii in collaboration with Dr. Rob Toonen to determine if coral adapt or acclimatize to global change conditions expected at the end of this century. If they can adapt, how fast is the adaptation rate? How do adaptation rates differ among species and geographic locations? Answers to these questions are key to developing strategic coral conservation and management plans. To address these questions, eight species of Hawaiian corals are being studied using a two-part approach: 1) a survey of natural corals found across natural temperature and acidity gradients and 2) a two-year long mesocosm study which will expose corals collected in part 1 to temperature and acidity conditions expected at the end of this century.