Press and Photos

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

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

Is the Great Barrier Reef really already dead?

Photo: Associated Press

Corals In Vitro

Decouverte October 16 2016 - Coral reefs are seriously threatened by global warming. Australia and Hawaii, two researchers decided to combine their efforts to save these precious marine ecosystems. Their solution is bold, even risky. It consists in creating in the laboratory hybrid corals and coral "genetically improved", able to survive in the inhospitable waters of the future.  Listen to the broadcast here!
Photo: Raphael Ritson-Williams

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

Environmental Protection Agency awards $132,000 to graduate student for coral reef research

UH News September 22 2016 - Chris Wall, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa marine biology doctoral candidate was selected for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) graduate fellowship program. With this honor, Wall received a $132,000 award to support his research on the impacts of near-shore stressors, such as nutrient pollution, and global stressors, such as rising seawater temperature, on coral reefs. Read more here!
Photo: K. Steward

The woman with a controversial plan to save corals

BBC March 22 2016 - Ruth Gates saw it time and time again. While surveying coral reefs of Caribbean in the late 1980s, she noticed that many corals were clearly stressed, sapped of their colour. Some faded to skeletal white.The trigger was always a sudden surge in ocean temperature. Some corals reacted by ejecting the algae that live within their tissues and usually provide them with colour and nutrition. The process is aptly known as coral bleaching. Read more here!
Photo: BBC

Caring About Coral - Ruth Gates, Robert Richmond and Mark Hixon

ThinkTech Hawaiʻi March 31 2016 - Bob Richmond, director of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory, part of Pacific Biosciences Research Center in SOEST, and past president of the International Society for Reef Studies, Ruth Gates Director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and president of the Society, and Mark Hickson, professor of marine biology at the Biology Department at UH Manoa share their reef research at Kewalo Basin. They also discuss the upcoming Coral Reef Symposium in Hawaii, bridging science to policy, June 29--24, 2016.

Behind the Scenes: Breeding Super Coral

Aljazeera America Dec 16 2015 - On this week's episode of TechKnow, Marita Davison travels to Hawaii to report on the a global coral bleaching event. According to a recent report from the WWF, coral reef cover has declined by 50% in the last 30 years, and reefs could disappear by as early as 2050. Corals are sentinals for a much broader issues plaguing our oceans: sea surface temperature rise, ocean acidification, and the damaging impacts of climate change. Read more here!
Photo: Aljazeera America

Can tougher corals save reefs from extinction? 

Discovery News Nov 30 2015 - Scientists are busy breeding a new kind of coral they hope will be able to withstand the harsher conditions predicted of future seas.  Watch the video here!
Photo: Discovery News

Super Coral

The Huffington Post "Now What?" with Ryan Duffy, Nov 19 2015 - There is an unsustainable amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere that is poisoning our natural world, and scientists are engaged in a heated debate on how to mitigate its effects. In Hawaii, one scientist has decided to stop debating and do something to save the vital coral reefs that protect our shores.  W atch the video here!
Photo: Huffington Post

Scientists tinker with evolution to save Hawaiʻi coral reefs

Associated Press, Nov. 5 2015 - Scientists at a research center on Hawaiʻi's Coconut Island have embarked on an experiment to grow "super coral" that they hope can withstand the hotter and more acidic oceans that are expected with global warming.
The quest to grow the hearty coral comes at a time when researchers are warning about the dire health of the world's reefs, which create habitats for marine life, protect shorelines and drive tourist economies... Read more here. 
Photo: AP

Hōkuleʻa: Sharing hope for the world's corals

Polynesian Voyaging Society, Oct. 28 2015 - Crewmember Dr. Ruth Gates is discovering how corals might survive ocean acidification and other threats pressuring the world’s reefs. Her visit to the Great Barrier Reef during the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage provided an opportunity to bridge and compare Hawaiian and Australian cultural reef knowledge making for a robust educational opportunity. Backed by 25 years of globe-spanning research, Dr. Gates touches on the fundamental link between the health of reefs and people, and the value of connecting with others to navigate positive change... Read more here. 
Photo: AP

Creating corals that can survive climate change

The Washington Post, Oct. 19 2015 - Keyhole Reef is one of dozens of small reefs rising abruptly from the depths of Kaneohe Bay, one of Hawaiʻi’s most scenic places. The water around it is sapphire blue, and bright schools of tang and triggerfish flit over its surface. But the reef is showing troubling signs of stress these days because of climate change... Read more here. 
Photo: Katie Barott

Hawaiʻi's bleaching problem: How warming waters threaten coral

CNBC, July 18 2015 - Coral reefs, already under threat around the globe, may be in particularly acute danger in the waters of Hawaiʻi because of a phenomenon known as bleaching. The resource makes up less than 1 percent of the underwater ecosystem yet helps to protect 25 percent of marine species, generates tourism revenue and boosts fishing, according to data from The Nature Conservatory... Read more here. 
Photo: Raphael Ritson-Williams
  1. Teaching youth about coral reproduction at the SOEST Open House at UH Manoa
    Teaching youth about coral reproduction at the SOEST Open House at UH Manoa
  2. Jen Davidson places corals on a reef in Kaneohe Bay. Photo: Associated Press
    Jen Davidson places corals on a reef in Kaneohe Bay. Photo: Associated Press
  3. Coral bleaching in the second consecutive bleaching event in Hawaii. Photo: Associated Press
    Coral bleaching in the second consecutive bleaching event in Hawaii. Photo: Associated Press
  4. Sampling coral communities in Kaneohe Bay
    Sampling coral communities in Kaneohe Bay
  5. Land and sea on Oahu Hawaii. Photo: Raphael Ritson-Williams
    Land and sea on Oahu Hawaii. Photo: Raphael Ritson-Williams
  6. The Gates Lab attends the 2015 HIMB End of Year Review.
    The Gates Lab attends the 2015 HIMB End of Year Review.