CSHoRE: Coral Stress Hardening for Restoration project

The types of projects we support here at KML come in all different shapes, sizes, and durations – but regardless they all play a vital role in research, education and the conservation of organisms and ecosystems. We recently caught up with Dr. Harmony Martell, the Ocean Leaders Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the Institute of Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Colombia. Harmony is a co-PI on the CSHoRE: Coral Stress Hardening for Restoration project which is affiliated with the NOAA Ruth D. Gates Memorial Restoration Innovation Grant.  Keep on reading to learn more about the work that Harmony and the other PIs of the project did while staying on KML!

JD: Harmony! It was so good getting to see you and have you on property here at Keys Marine Laboratory. I know the two of us met back in 2018 at Reef Futures but that was way before my time here at KML. With all that being said… how exactly did you find out about us?

Harmony: I’ve actually been to KML a few times beforehand. Back in 2009 I volunteered with Mary Alice Coffroth (MAC)’s coral spawning efforts as a Master’s student at NSU and her lab’s efforts were based out of KML. I also visited a friend, Gaya Gnanalingam, while she was doing field work at KML and FWS on spiny lobster, Finally, I visited KML around Reef Futures 2018 to see some of the rescued Dendrogyra that were brought on property after a major disease event. However, this was my first time with a project here on my own.

JD: Are you able to tell us a bit more about CSHoRE? What is the basis of the project itself?

Harmony: This project has 3 main goals: (1) To determine the costs and benefits of coral stress hardening on staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) for restoration, using both thermal and nutrient stress in the lab; (2) in the field after outplanting; and (3) to determine whether any successful coral hardening offers a long-term benefit for outplanted corals after a year. We are also examining the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that are likely at play with stress hardening. We were able to integrate this project at KML via the use of KML’s Well Seawater System as well as the dry lab space. The lab became out “second home” as we had plenty of nights that turn into early mornings filled with sample analysis.

JD:  I know it’s been a while since you joined us and as a coral nerd myself, I am dying to hear about your findings so far. Is there anywhere that people can find further updates on this project? Do you all have any plans to come back to KML soon?

Harmony: One of the other co-PI on the project, Serena Hackerott, has an amazing website that discusses some further information on CSHoRE – link coming soon! We plan on returning to KML in September (right before Reef Futures 2022) to test the thermal performance of our corals after being outplanted for 3 months to see if the patterns of thermal performance that we observed during the lab experiment persists.

JD: Excited to have you back!

Harmony: We’re looking forward to it. Living and working in rainy Vancouver has me missing the Florida sunshine so it will be nice to be back!