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NSU Researchers Part of Ambitious Plan to Save Coral Reefs
 
Published Monday, May 20, 2019

FORT LAUDERDALE/DAVIE, Fla. – Call it Noah’s Ark for corals.

Coral reefs across the globe are under siege. Due to a number of “stressors,” coral reefs have been dying off in record numbers. For many years, marine biologists and researchers around the world, including right here at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography have undertaken herculean efforts to save these vital members of the marine ecosystem. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been enough, so a radical idea was needed.

“Researchers across the planet are working to determine what is causing corals to die off in such large numbers, but it takes time,” said Abby Renegar, Ph.D., a research scientist at NSU’s Halmos College. “We have learned a great deal, but there is so much more we need to learn in order to best help corals survive the attacks they face.”

Dr. Abby Renegar (left) and Dr. Richard Dodge examine coral sample.

We’ve all heard the phrase “think globally, act locally.” Well, nowhere is this more obvious than right here with Florida’s coral reefs. Our reefs have been dealing with a multi-year, disease-related mortality event that has caused massive coral “die-offs.” Renegar said that in Florida, more than 20 species, including those identified as primary reef-building species, have been negatively affected by this disease outbreak. Given just how pivotal a role coral reefs play in the economic engine that helps Florida run (i.e. tourism) it’s clear that the time had come for a drastic step to help save our corals.

Hence the creation of this “Noah’s Ark: project.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office, along with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program created the Coral Rescue Collection Plan. The idea is to help slow the continued spread of disease and saving “priority corals,” which include collecting numerous healthy corals that haven’t yet been impacted and house them in on-shore coral nurseries.

That’s where NSU comes in, as it joins the cadre of research entities involved in this project. Unlike the original Noah, who had only one ark, NSU is one of seven “arks” that will be hosting the rescued corals. In the short-term, these collections will prevent the total loss of these corals by protecting them from possible infection. In the long term, these collections will support the genetic preservation of these corals as a source stock for propagation for future restoration and reintroduction into the wild.

NSU’s site will serve as a sort of “temporary housing” for the rescued corals. Once they have been situated in the university’s on-shore nurseries and have been stabilized, they will then be relocated to a more long-term housing location.

The first round of corals are tentatively scheduled to arrive at NSU’s Ocean Campus at Noon, Thursday, May 23. The Ocean Campus is located at 8000 N.Ocean Dr. (inside the Von D. Mizell – Eula Johnson State Park.)

NSU has been growing corals in its off-shore and on-shore nurseries for many years, so this is a natural fit for the university to be part of this ambitious project. Renegar, who will be leading the preservation efforts at NSU, said the university will be home to approximately 700 rescued corals.

“We have a good deal of experience working with corals in such an environment,” she said. “We are going to take good care of our new residents.”

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About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): Located in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida, NSU is ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s Top 200 National Research Universities and is a dynamic, private research university providing high-quality educational and research programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and first-professional degree levels. Established in 1964, NSU now includes 16 colleges, the 215,000-square-foot Center for Collaborative Research, a private JK-12 grade school, the Mailman Segal Center for Human Development with specialists in Autism, the world-class NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, and the Alvin Sherman Library, Research and Information Technology Center, which is Florida’s largest public library. NSU has campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, while maintaining a presence online globally. Classified as a research university with “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is one of only 50 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification, and is also the largest private institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. For more information, please visit www.nova.edu.

About NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography: The college provides high-quality undergraduate (bachelor’s degree) and graduate (master’s and doctoral degrees and certificates) education programs in a broad range of disciplines, including marine sciences, mathematics, biophysics, and chemistry. Researchers carry out innovative basic and applied research programs in coral reef biology, ecology, and geology; fish biology, ecology, and conservation; shark and billfish ecology; fisheries science; deep-sea organismal biology and ecology; invertebrate and vertebrate genomics, genetics, molecular ecology, and evolution; microbiology; biodiversity; observation and modeling of large-scale ocean circulation, coastal dynamics, and ocean atmosphere coupling; benthic habitat mapping; biodiversity; histology; and calcification. The college’s newest building is the state-of-the-art Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center, an 86,000-square-foot structure filled with laboratories; offices; seminar rooms; an auditorium; and indoor and outdoor running sea water facilities. Please visit cnso.nova.edu for more information.

 


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