‘Janitors’ of the Sea: Overharvested sea cucumbers play crucial role in protecting coral

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that sea cucumbers — sediment-eating organisms that function like autonomous vacuum cleaners of the ocean floor — play an enormous role in protecting coral from disease. The problem is, they’ve been overharvested for more than 100 years, and they’re now rare.

Study links changes in global water cycle to higher temperatures

A new study takes an important step toward reconstructing a global history of water over the past 2,000 years. Using geologic and biologic evidence preserved in natural archives — including globally distributed corals, trees, ice, cave formations and sediments — the researchers showed that the global water cycle has changed during periods of higher and lower temperatures in the recent past.

Palau’s Rock Islands Harbor Heat-resistant Corals

Ocean warming is driving an increase in the frequency and severity of marine heatwaves, causing untold damage to coral reefs. Tropical corals, which live in symbiosis with tiny single celled algae, are sensitive to high temperatures, and exhibit a stress response called bleaching when the ocean gets too hot. In the last 4 decades, marine heatwaves have caused widespread bleaching, and killed millions of corals. Because of this, a global search is underway for reefs that can withstand the heat stress, survive future warming, and act as sources of heat-tolerant coral larvae to replenish affected areas both naturally and through restoration.

“Digital Reefs” awarded $5 million

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) $5 million to participate in NSF’s ground breaking Convergence Accelerator Program. The project, led by WHOI scientist Anne Cohen, builds the world’s first Coral Reef Digital Twin, a 4-dimensional virtual replica of a living coral reef powered by state-of-the art data and models.

Surviving Extreme Heat: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) receives funding from National Science Foundation (NSF) to study Coral Reef Resilience in a Warming Ocean

Woods Hole, Mass. (August 19th, 2021) — A team led by Anne Cohen, a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, received $1.75M in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study how coral reefs survive extreme heat events caused by climate change. The multidisciplinary project taps into expertise across four WHOI departments to uncover the oceanographic and biological processes that enable corals to survive marine heatwaves.

What happens to marine life when oxygen is scarce?

Woods Hole, Mass. (July 26, 2021) — In September of 2017, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution postdoctoral scholar Maggie Johnson was conducting an experiment with a colleague in Bocas del Toro off the Caribbean coast of Panama. After sitting on a quiet, warm open ocean, they snorkeled down to find a peculiar layer of murky, foul-smelling water about 10 feet below the surface, with brittle stars and sea urchins, which are usually in hiding, perching on the tops of coral.

Experimental Biology 2021 Press Materials Available Now

Embargoed press materials are now available for the virtual Experimental Biology (EB) 2021 meeting, featuring cutting-edge multidisciplinary research from across the life sciences. EB 2021, to be held April 27–30, is the annual meeting of five scientific societies bringing together thousands of scientists and 25 guest societies in one interdisciplinary community.

Corals Carefully Organize Proteins to Form Rock-Hard Skeletons

Charles Darwin, the British naturalist who championed the theory of evolution, noted that corals form far-reaching structures, largely made of limestone, that surround tropical islands. He didn’t know how they performed this feat. Now, Rutgers scientists have shown that coral structures consist of a biomineral containing a highly organized organic mix of proteins that resembles what is in our bones. Their study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, shows for the first time that several proteins are organized spatially – a process that’s critical to forming a rock-hard coral skeleton.

Chula Researchers Discover New Species of Soft Coral “Sirindhornae” and “Cornigera“

The Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University in collaboration with Chula Unisearch, the Plant Genetic Conservation Project under the Royal Initiative of Her Royal Highness (HRH) Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and the Naval Special Warfare Command, Royal Thai Navy, jointly publicized the discovery of the world’s rare and newly discovered species of soft coral. The discovery indicates the abundance and ecological diversity of the Thai seas and one of the new species has received HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s gracious permission to be named “Sirindhornae“. The other was named “Cornigera“. The discovery and names of the two new soft coral species found in the Thai seas have been published in the international research journal, Zootaxa, in 2020.

Big Differences in How Coral Reef Fish Larvae are Dispersed

How the larvae of colorful clownfish that live among coral reefs in the Philippines are dispersed varies widely, depending on the year and seasons – a Rutgers-led finding that could help scientists improve conservation of species. Right after most coral reef fish hatch, they join a swirling sea of plankton as tiny, transparent larvae. Then currents, winds and waves disperse them, frequently to different reefs.

How to Identify Heat-Stressed Corals

Researchers have found a novel way to identify heat-stressed corals, which could help scientists pinpoint the coral species that need protection from warming ocean waters linked to climate change, according to a Rutgers-led study.


In recent decades, the decline of living hard coral on reefs around the world has raised concerns among marine experts. For years, the presumption was that decline signaled that an entire reef’s future was threatened. A study by Florida State University researchers shows that might not always be the case. While a complement of healthy coral is still preferred, dead or dying coral might not be fatal for an entire reef.

New Portable Tool Analyzes Microbes in the Environment

Imagine a device that could swiftly analyze microbes in oceans and other aquatic environments, revealing the health of these organisms – too tiny to be seen by the naked eye – and their response to threats to their ecosystems. Rutgers researchers have created just such a tool, a portable device that could be used to assess microbes, screen for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and analyze algae that live in coral reefs. Their work is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Rutgers Expert Available to Discuss Coral Genomics Paper

New Brunswick, N.J. (Jan. 6, 2020) – By combining a range of biological data with the first successful genome editing experiments in corals, scientists are poised for rapid advancements in understanding how coral genes function, according to a paper in…