Finding solutions for coral reefs in a changing world
Our group works on coral reefs, tropical marine ecosystems that protect coastlines, support tourism, and provide nutrition to many island nations.
Our focus is on defining biological traits that drive the differences in performance among corals and reefs.
Our goal is to contribute knowledge that expands our basic understanding of how coral reefs function, and informs the management and conservation of these beautiful, important, but threatened ecosystems.

Super Corals—For the Future
American Museum of Natural History Science Bulletins

How We’re Teaching Endangered Coral Reefs to Help Themselves

NBC Mach News February 2 2017 - Around the world, coral is under siege. Battered by a changing climate, destructive fishing, and other threats, reefs are disappearing. Just last year, the Great Barrier Reef suffered the worst die-off ever recorded. If nothing is done, nearly all reefs will be in serious danger by 2050. Many people depend on reefs for their food and livelihood. They're home to more than 25 percent of marine creatures, supplying us with fish and sources of new medicines to fight cancer and other diseases. Reefs also form natural seawalls that protect shorelines from storms and waves, and are magnets for tourism.  Read more here!
Photo: John Burns

Reef rehab could help threatened corals make a comeback

Science News October 18 2016 - Coral reefs are bustling cities beneath tropical, sunlit waves. Thousands of colorful creatures click, dash and dart, as loud and fast-paced as citizens of any metropolis. Built up in tissue-thin layers over millennia, corals are the high-rise apartments of underwater Gotham. Calcium carbonate skeletons represent generations of tiny invertebrate animals, covered in a living layer of colorful coral polyps. Their structures offer shelter, and for about 114 species of fish and 51 species of invertebrates, those coral skyscrapers are lunch. Important as they are, corals are in jeopardy. Warming oceans are causing more and more corals to bleach white and become vulnerable to destruction.  Read more here!
Photo: Catlin Seaview Survey

Brave New Coral

Surfer Magazine September 26 2016 - Misaki Takabayashi, a marine scientist at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, first noticed nearby reefs were changing in 2014. She was bodyboarding with a friend one day at Wai’uli, a punchy reefbreak on the east side of the Big Island, when she caught a glimpse of something white beneath the surface of the water. “I started paddling for a wave, and when the water sucked up off the reef, I could see fluorescent white coral colonies below me,” recalls Takabayashi. “They looked like ghosts popping out through the water.” After studying reef ecosystems in Hawaii for over 20 years, Takabayashi knew this wasn’t a good sign. Corals are usually pigmented. Some take on shades of brown. Others are more vibrant, stained with bright blue, green, or red hues, like the ones on the front of travel brochures selling all-inclusive packages to Fijian resorts.  Read more here!
Photo: Surfer​​ Magazine

Reef 2.0

Hana Hou Magazine June/July 2016 - "Have you been to Coconut Island?” asks Sam Henderson, my boat captain for all of one minute. Like most Hawai‘i residents, I haven’t been to Moku o Lo‘e (its Hawaiian name) even though you can easily see the twenty-eight-acre island in Kāne‘ohe bay from shore. It’s visited by few other than the scientists who motor out daily to the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, or HIMB, a research unit belonging to the University of Hawai‘i. Much of their work is focused on Hawai‘i’s coastal waters, from tracking sharks to studying how and why marine mammals use sonar. But the island might be better known as the place where the SS Minnow wrecked in the opening credits of Gilligan’s Island. When we arrive I spot what I came to see: large black tubs filled with small coral fragments. Not just any corals—these are Kāne‘ohe bay’s toughest of the tough.  Read more here!
Photo: Hana Hou

Breeding the Ubercoral

Hakai Magazine June 21 2016 - On her morning commute, coral biologist Ruth Gates drives the length of Kāne‘ohe Bay, a lagoon the color of blue opal backed by steep volcanic mountains on O‘ahu’s windward coast. She parks her silver Hyundai at a pier and catches a boat to Coconut Island, where the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology is located. Gates loves working here because there are corals everywhere. Corals shaped like knobs of ginger, heads of cauliflower, and portobello mushroom caps fringe the island, and crust together in dozens of patch reefs on the bay’s floor. “If I could be anything, I’d be a coral,” Gates tells me when I meet her on Coconut Island last September.  Read more here!
Photo: Waterframe