Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 170514943
Identifying bleaching-resistant colonies of the endangered staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, in Turneffe Atoll, Belize for conservation and restoration
I will re-visit Acropora cervicornis colonies that have been previously identified, tagged, and tracked over 2 years near Calabash Caye, Turneffe Atoll, Belize, to assess their current health status. Then I will then take several fragments (<10cm long each) from each tagged colony at both the backreef and the forereef to place in a holding tank in the wet lab at the Calabash Caye Field Station (University of Belize). After a brief period of acclimation, I will subject the corals to acute heat stress trials, using a system of heaters and controlled outflows that I have built and optimized during previous expeditions. Corals will be assessed for their susceptibility or resistance to this heat shock, and thus bleaching, through a number of metrics, including RNA expression/transcriptomes, chlorophyll content, zooxanthellae density, and tissue color. I will link results from each fragment back to its wild colony. If I determine that fragments originating from certain colonies are able to withstand this heat shock better than others based on the metrics above, we can harvest a small amount of material from the original colonies to grow on nursery tables established near Turneffe Atoll, for future outplanting onto the reef, aiding population restoration.
Project 170514943 location - Belize, North America