Short Name:

Cold Corals in Hot Water - Investigating the Physiological Responses of Antarctic Coral Larvae to Climate change Stress

The Western Antarctic Peninsula is experiencing climate change at one of the fastest rates of anywhere around the globe. Accelerated climate change is likely to affect the many benthic marine invertebrates that live within narrow temperature windows along the Antarctic Continental Shelf in presently unidentified ways. At present however, there are few data on the physiological consequences of climate change on the sensitive larval stages of cold-water corals, and none on species living in thermal extremes such as polar waters. This project will collect the larvae of the non-seasonal, brooding scleractinian Flabellum impensum to be used in a month-long climate change experiment at Palmer Station. Multidisciplinary techniques will be used to examine larval development and cellular stress using a combination of electron microscopy, flow cytometry, and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectometry. Data from this project will form the first systematic study of the larval stages of polar cold-water corals, and how these stages are affected by temperature stress at the cellular and developmental level. Cold-water corals have been shown to be important ecosystem engineers, providing habitat for thousands of associated species, including many that are of commercial importance. Understanding how the larvae of these corals react to warming trends seen today in our oceans will allow researchers to predict future changes in important benthic communities around the globe. Associated education and outreach include: 1) Increasing student participation in polar research by involving postdoctoral and undergraduate students in the field and research program; ii) promotion of K-12 teaching and learning programs by providing information via a research website, Twitter, and in-school talks in the local area; iii) making the data collected available to the wider research community via peer reviewed published literature and iv) reaching a larger public audience through such venues as interviews in the popular media, You Tube and other popular media outlets, and local talks to the general public.

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