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How have coral growth rates changed over time?

$65
Pledged
2%
Funded
$4,990
Goal
6
Days Left
  • $65
    pledged
  • 2%
    funded
  • 6
    days left

About This Project

Corals are under threat of extinction due to the long-term effects of climate change. Currently, the effects of these phenomena on coral growth is based primarily on short-term laboratory experiments, much shorter than the decades over which climate change occurs. To address this, I will obtain information from annually-banded skeletons of massive, long-lived corals to produce a well-replicated, long-term reconstruction of growth rates across Hawaii.

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What is the context of this research?

Even with substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, corals worldwide are expected to experience mass bleaching events annually by 2100. Current knowledge of the effects of climate change on coral growth is based primarily on acute responses in short-term laboratory experiments. Although a year-long acidification experiment on coral growth was recently achieved, this timeframe still pales in comparison to the decades-to centuries timescale of ocean warming and acidification, which raises the question of whether laboratory experiments can realistically simulate both the chronic effects of—and any potential acclimation to—the long-term exposure happening in the ocean.

What is the significance of this project?

Skeletal cores from long-lived Porites colonies collected in the field provide the unique perspective of changes in coral growth over decades to centuries. This information cannot be acquired in short-term lab-based experiments. While climate change trends are increasing at alarming rates, these changes in oceanic conditions have occurred over the past century, and the only way to fully understand the effects is through core analysis. Both acute and chronic changes in Porites growth rates are highlighted through these techniques. My research will fill the knowledge gap of how coral responses in the field, over decadal or longer timescales. Ultimately, this information will guide more accurate predictions of future coral reef states.

What are the goals of the project?

The objective of my study is to produce a well-replicated, long-term reconstruction of coral growth rates across the tropics using state-of-the-art measurement and statistical tools. I hope to collect at least 15 samples from locations around Oahu. Specifically, I will answer the questions of whether (1) coral growth rates have declined since 1900, (2) there are regional differences in coral growth trends, and (3) there is evidence of acclimation to climate change. A series of statistical models will be developed to determine if and to what extent growth rates have changed. Reductions in growth rates followed by a return to normal growth rates would be indicative of acclimation to changing conditions.

Budget

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The pneumatic drill and diamond tipped core barrels are required to collect the coral core samples. Scuba fills provide the compressed air required for diving and using the drill. Computed tomography scanning is used to visualize the annual density bands, and the Osirix program will then be used to view the scanned images and measure growth rates over time.

Endorsed by

This is an important and timely project, and Jordyn has all the skills to see it to completion. Through funding support for this project, Jordyn will be able to collect an immensely valuable set of coral cores in Hawai‘i, and generate key insights into how corals are responding to our rapidly changing climate.
This topic is a vital component of future analyses on how coral reefs are affected by anthropogenic climate change. Jordyn, and her thesis advisor, have the proper tools and equipment to properly conduct the research proposed. I work as a fellow in this laboratory as well (under different research thesis ideals). I strongly endorse this experiment.
Jordyn is a dedicated scientist whose knowledge of coral growth amazes me every time I talk to her. Her project, being a long term study on coral growth rates, is something that is vital (and rarely done before) in understanding the effect of climate change on corals. I cannot wait to see what this project reveals once the data is collected.

Flag iconProject Timeline

Data collection and analysis should be completed by the end of the year. Coral cores will be completed over the summer then scanned in early September. The annual bands will identified and measured using the Osirix program during the rest of September and into October. Cross-dating will take place to create a master chronology by the middle of October and statistical analyses will then be conducted.

Jun 06, 2022

Project Launched

Aug 28, 2022

Collect coral cores from throughout Oahu, Hawaii

Sep 11, 2022

Computed Tomography scan cores

Oct 06, 2022

Band identification and measurement 

Oct 20, 2022

Cross-date cores to create master chronology

Meet the Team

Jordyn Cotton
Jordyn Cotton

Jordyn Cotton

My passion and fascination for the ocean goes back as far as I can remember. At the age of four, I decided I wanted to devote the rest of my life to marine science. I obtained my undergraduate degree in Marine Science-Biology at the University of Tampa and will be completing my Master's in Marine Science by the end of 2022.

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