Coral Assisted Evolution
"Super Corals"

Accelerate naturally occurring processes to enhance stress tolerance

Recent global coral bleaching events have caused the loss of over 40% of the worlds reefs, which illustrates the fact that rates of ocean warming are outpacing intrinsic adaptive mechanisms in corals. Future models predict the conditions that drive coral bleaching will increase in severity and frequency as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. To minimize losses of corals in these warming events, we are advancing the application of “human-assisted evolution” to corals, which aims to accelerate natural selection and enhance stress tolerance.

This initiative is in collaboration with Prof. Madeleine van Oppen at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

Coral Bleaching

Projects and Activities

We are attempting to increase coral resilience through: 

1) Selective Breeding

This is the intentional breeding of organisms with a desirable trait to produce offspring with improved traits. We are selectively breeding parents that did not bleach during stressful events and testing if their offspring will have increased resiliency. We are working with three species: 1) Montipora capitata, 2) Porites compressa, and 3) Pocillopora acuta.

2) Inducing Acclimatization
We are exposing corals to warmer temperatures to test whether this ‘trains’ them and fixes a memory that makes them more resilient to future warmer ocean conditions. We believe that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" also applies to corals.

3) Modifying Symbioses
We are investigating whether corals that associate with a more thermally resilient type of Symbiodinium (i.e. Zooxanthellae) or bacterial assemblage will enhance resilience of the coral holobiont. 


Selective Breeding

Inducing Acclimatization

Modifying Symbioses

Funding Agencies