Sharing our findings at the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS)

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation will be attending the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) this week to share our findings from the Global Reef Expedition.  The 15th International Coral Reef Symposium is the primary international conference for coral …

Corals in the Anthropocene

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This guest blog comes from a former KSLOF fellow, Dr. Anderson Mayfield, who joined the foundation on many of our Global Reef Expedition research missions in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. A former student of the renowned coral biologist Dr. Ruth Gates, Dr. Mayfield studies coral health and physiology at NOAA’s AOML Coral Program and at the University of Miami’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies. He continues to publish scientific papers based on data collected on the Global Reef Expedition, including his latest paper, recently published in the journal Oceans.

As a naïve post-doctoral researcher back in 2012, I had an idea that was surely far from novel at the time: corals of far-flung, uninhabited atolls are in better shape than those closer to major human population centers. The logic was that these corals would be under global-scale stressors only (namely those associated with climate change), and not the threats that instead plague reefs close to cities (such as pollution and overfishing).

As a fellow with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation during their Global Reef Expedition (GRE), I tested this hypothesis by sampling corals from among the most seemingly pristine islands and atolls in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Although we certainly observed beautiful reefs with high coral cover (see image above) and diversity as well as a plethora of fish —all the visible hallmarks marine biologists look for in ‘healthy’ reefs—the corals themselves told a different story (Mayfield et al., 2017); high cellular stress levels were documented in the vast majority of the many hundreds of corals sampled across the GRE.

Despite looking healthy, the corals were struggling to survive.

These high stress levels do not, in and of themselves, imply that all such sampled corals are not long for this Earth. They do signify, however, that we likely never visited ‘pristine’ reefs during the GRE, despite studying some of the most remote coral reefs on the planet. This is a testament to the wide reach of climate change. This statement may come as a surprise to some, who, like me, assumed that somewhere out there, one might find corals entirely untouched by humankind, but this unfortunately does not appear to be the case.

Sea Secrets Lecture: Beauty and Peril in the Red Sea

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Our Chief Scientist, Dr. Sam Purkis, will be giving a virtual lecture on January 18th at 7pm ET entitled “Beauty and Peril in the Red Sea.”

Dr. Purkis has joined the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation on many research missions, including several to the Red Sea. We hope you take this opportunity to hear more about his work and learn about the remarkable diversity and resiliency of coral reefs in the Red Sea.

Global Reef Expedition Final Report

The Global Reef Expedition Final Report summarizes the findings from our 10-year research mission to survey and map coral reefs across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans as well as the Red Sea. The Expedition involved hundreds of research scientists …

A New Model of Coral Reef Health

Scientists have developed a new way to model and map the health of coral reef ecosystems using data collected on the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation’s Global Reef Expedition. This innovative method, presented today at the International Coral Reef …

A New Model of Coral Reef Health

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Scientists have developed a new way to model and map the health of coral reef ecosystems using data collected on the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation’s Global Reef Expedition. This innovative method, presented today at the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), can determine which natural and anthropogenic factors are most likely to lead to persistently vibrant coral and fish communities. Their findings can help scientists identify the reefs most likely to survive in a changing world.

The new models are a first step in being able to produce maps of global coral reef resilience.

The Last Great Coral Reef Wilderness

Global Geneva Magazine April 21, 2021 By Liz Thompson & Renée Carlton   Scientists aboard the Global Reef Expedition—the largest coral reef survey and mapping expedition in history—traveled to the Chagos Archipelago to study some of the most pristine coral …

Are reef corals stressed or just pessimistic?

The Conversation December 14, 2018 By Anderson Mayfield Climate change threatens coral reefs around the globe. The high temperatures associated with this phenomenon can lead to “bleaching,” the breakdown of the symbiosis between corals and the algae that live within their cells. Since corals are nourished by these photosynthetically active algal …

AI for Earth

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Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Earth program is harnessing the power of the Global Reef Expedition dataset to build a predictive model of global coral reef health and resilience. Anna Bakker, a Ph.D. student working with KSLOF’s Chief Scientist Dr. Sam Purkis on remote sensing of coral reefs, was awarded the Microsoft AI for Earth Grant for the duration of her Ph.D. This program will grant us access to use the immense power of AI, machine learning, and cloud computing to analyze the data collected during the Global Reef Expedition.