Synthetic Biology*s Role in Saving Coral Reefs - BLI

Rehabiliting Coral Reefs
Amanda Thompson
June / July 2014
Biological Research
BLI Session 1
 Coral reefs cover less than .02% of our oceans
 25% of all marine species live in coral reefs
 58% of coral reefs are in danger due to human
 60% of coral reefs will disappear in the next 30 years
 1200 square miles of coral reefs is destroyed annually
 450 million people live
within 60 kilometers of
a coral reef
 Provides jobs
 Food
 Protects beaches,
coastal cities, and
 Potential treatment for
Healthy Coral
 In temperatures between 64-86º F
 Polyps
responsible for making coral reef’s limestone or
calcium carbonate structure
 When polyps die the soft tissue decays but the calcium
carbonate structure remains
 Several types of algae bind the coral segments together
 Zooxanthellae lives in each coral polyp
 Can reproduce asexually or sexually
Nematocystused to help
ward off
enemies /
capture prey
Photosynthetic algae
Lives in the tissues of coral
Mutualistic relationship
Produces glucose, glycerol, and
amino acids coral then makes
proteins, fats, carbohydrates, &
calcium carbonate
Coral color
Survives off of waste & sunlight
Provides 90% of the energy
needed to grow & reproduce
Coral Bleaching
Abnormal temperature causes coral to become “stressed”
The symbiotic relationship between coral and zooxanthellae is severed
Coral expels algae and causes the coral to appear white
The coral then begins to starve without the zooxanthellae
If temperatures return to normal then the zooxanthellae will be reabsorbed
and the coral can survive
 Causes increased susceptibility to disease
 Breakthroughs in
polygenetic systematics
 Further molecular studies of
coral biology
 Molecular mechanics of
stress and resistance
 Molecular machinery of
 Microarrays would
become available to
monitor the expression of
Farming Coral Reefs
 Scientists take tiny
fragments of coral and
grow them to a bigger size
in a lab
 Then using underwater
glue the coral is cemented
into the environment and
left to grow
 This should cause the
population of coral to
 Selective breeding is used
to plant the strongest and
most resilient coral possible
Gene Therapy Research
 Roseobacteriales
cells that
transfer DNA at high frequencies
to bacterioplankton
 Bacteria that produces gene
transfer units has been
sequenced & can assist in quick
 Roseobacteriales begin a chain
reaction and results in an
increased colonization rate for
 A specific set of genes can be
activated in some types of coral
to help the coral acclimatize
 The next step is to research how
to manipulate the gene
If Coral Reef Depletion Continues…
 Medicinal uses of coral cannot be researched and
 Populations of marine organisms will decrease drastically
 Economic instability
 Global issues will continue to worsen and go on to affect
other precious ecosystems
“Our ideas, like the ocean, must be expansive”
Works Cited
"Coral Bleaching Goes from Bad to Worse." Nature Publishing Group, 19 Nov. 2010. Web. 11 July
"Coral Genomes Could Aid Reef Conservation." Nature Publishing Group, 24 July 2011. Web. 11 July
"Coral Reef Genes « Academy Research « Science Today." Science Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2014.
"The Experiment: Using Gene Therapy to Save Coral Reefs ‘Stressed’ by Climate Change." PlanetSave. N.p., n.d.
Web. 11 July 2014.
"Genetic Engineers and Conservation Biologists: Scenes From a First Date." Cool Green Science. N.p., n.d. Web.
11 July 2014.
"Genetics for Saving Coral Reefs from Climate Change." - Crop Biotech Update ( 10/30/2013 ). N.p., n.d. Web. 11
July 2014.
"Micklem Lab." Micklem Lab. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2014. Nature Publishing Group, n.d. Web. 11 July 2014.
"OA." OA. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2014.
"OceanChallenge - Home." OceanChallenge - Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2014.
Putnam, H. M., A. B. Mayfield, T. Y. Fan, C. S. Chen, and R. D. Gates. "The Physiological and Molecular Responses
of Larvae from the Reef-building Coral Pocillopora Damicornis Exposed to Near-future Increases in Temperature
and PCO2." Marine Biology 160.8 (2013): 2157-173. Web.
"Researchers Share Surprising Discovery About Coral Reef Ecology." Hawaii News. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2014.
"Synthetic Biology: Applications and Ethics." Marine Science Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2014.
"What Is Coral Bleaching?" What Is Coral Bleaching? N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2014.

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