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

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

Scientifically Engineered Coral that could Survive Climate Change Devastation

 
Newsweek May 22 2016 - Ruth Gates hops off the launch and gestures toward a mass of submerged coral shimmering darkly in the crystalline waters a few feet offshore. “That whitish coral and the one covered with algae over there are dead,” she says. “The brown coral that you see growing in the gaps is still alive.”
We have arrived at Moku o Loʻe (Coconut Island), the site of the University of Hawaii’s state-of-the-art marine laboratory, where Gates and her team are attempting to learn why some coral animals survive bleaching—when an environmental trigger like warm water causes corals to turn completely white and stop growing—while others, often just inches away, perish.
  Read more here!
Photo: Newsweek

Super Coral that can Survive Global Warming

 
National Geographic March 23 2016 - Scientists have discovered that some coral species come through the effects of global warming unscathed. In 1998, the world lost 18 percent of its coral reefs because of global coral bleaching brought about by warmer and more acidic ocean water. Researchers at the University of Hawaii started a program to identify the resilient super corals, breed them, and introduce them to the ocean environment. They hope that the corals will thrive and stop the decline of the coral reef ecosystem.  Watch the video here!
Photo: National Geographic

Unnatural selection: What will it take to save the world's reefs and forests? 

 
The New Yorker April 18 2016 - Ruth Gates fell in love with the ocean while watching TV. When she was in elementary school, she would sit in front of “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau,” mesmerized. The colors, the shapes, the diversity of survival strategies—life beneath the surface of the water seemed to her more spectacular than life above it. Without knowing much beyond what she’d learned from the series, she decided that she would become a marine biologist. “Even though Cousteau was coming through the television, he unveiled the oceans in a way that nobody else had been able to,” she told me.  Read more here!
Photo: The New Yorker