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.
To stabilize and restore coral reefs from the brink of collapse, a team of scientists at the University of Hawaii's Institute of Marine Biology are intervening by attempting to breed "super coral." They'll take samples from the reef, bring them back to the lab, and apply techniques in assisted evolution to create a hardier, more resilient tool that can withstand climate change.
The key with assisted evolution is epigenetics, that is, taking the genes of resilient coral strains and passing them on to younger offspring. Epigenetics doesn't change a coral's genetic code, but it does change how it's used or expressed. This can allow a coral to modify part of their genome to better adapt and respond to environmental stress.
Some scenes from our upcoming episode airing this Saturday below.