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.
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.
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
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
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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