This coral scientist is fighting to save the reefs of the world

It was the first time he had seen the coral reef – at the age of seven on vacation in the Bahamas with his family. This was also the moment when Camp fell in love with Sagar. “It was just the fascination with this unknown world that really captivated me,” she recalls.

Now 33, the British-born marine biologist at the University of Technology Sydney is a leading researcher of coral conservation and resilience – the first time he was fascinated as a child fighting to save a marine miracle.

Camp work includes the world’s quest to find the world’s toughest and most resilient corals – the species with the best chances of surviving a climate crisis.

She has studied corals growing in mangrove lagoons worldwide, including the Caribbean, Seychelles and Indonesia. In 2016, he and his team were the first to find mangrove corals in the South Pacific in New Caledonia. In 2019, for the first time, he documented a similar mangrove coral in his own backyard in the periphery of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Mangrove lagoons are shallow bodies of water, found near coasts in the tropics, lined by trees and shrubs that are adapted for growing in saltwater.

Marine biologist Emma Camp studied mangrove coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

According to Camp, in the lagoon, “water is inherently hot, naturally acidic and has low oxygen conditions.” On the reefs, coral is dying because climate change makes sea conditions similar, warmer, more acidic water, and reduces oxygen levels – but in mangrove lagoons, corals thrive. The purpose of the camp is to identify the special qualities that allow mangrove corals to survive in hostile environments.

Camp and his team collect coral samples from the mangrove lagoon, bring them back to her laboratory in Sydney to learn more about their genetic makeup and how DNA differs from reef corals. Analyzes.

In Australia, the camp swaps coral pieces between the mangrove lagoon and the main body of the reef.

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Mangrove corals are transplanted onto the reef to test which species can thrive there, she says, while reef corals are transported to mangrove habitats to assess how they move in more challenging environments. Reacts The purpose of the camp is to work out if scientists will one day be able to use these resilient corals to replenish areas on reef degraded by climate change.

Operation is tightly controlled with coral pieces attached to small frames with cable ties to prevent them from spreading beyond the test area. This ensures that there are no unintended consequences for species moving between different species.

Camp says she remains an “ocean optimist”, but ultimately, her job is to just “buy time” against climate change.

“Time is running out and it’s urgent,” she says. “If we don’t take action, these vitally important ecosystems … are about to be lost or at least severely degraded to a point where we can’t really go back.”

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