Research and Creative Projects

How Coral Reacts to Different Stressors

Julia Rakowsky ’22 and Kayla Cayemitte ’23, Biology

The Research:
The goal of our research is to examine how corals react to a change in increased temperature, decreased salinity, and the combined effect of increased temperature and decreased salinity. Specifically, we are looking at how the endosymbiont, zooxanthella, reacts and how the colors in coral change over  time.

The Impact:
This research is very important to us due to the real-world implications. The ocean is heating up every year, causing all kinds of marine life to adjust. Corals are one type of marine life that has largely been affected by increasing temperatures in waters. Micro-algae called zooxanthellae are inside the coral and provide them with nutrition. When zooxanthellae are disrupted through various stressors, like changes in temperature and salinity, they disperse. This process is called coral bleaching. Coral bleaching has left once colorful reefs abandoned and lifeless. It is important to study how stressors effect coral so we can develop solutions to keep coral alive.