SMALL MOLECULES ARE A BIG DEAL
Differences in coral metabolites
Graduate Student: Maggie Sogin
Coral reefs are often considered
ocean rainforests, and are home to a wide range of animals and plants that
create beauty in the sea! Corals, which look like rocks but are actually an animal
that lives in partnership with tiny algae called zooxanthellae (zoh-zan-theh-lee),
create homes for all of the other organisms that live on the reef. Zooxanthellae are
so important to corals because they provide them with the nutrients (similar to how
different vegetables and fruits feed people) that they need to survive. Global climate
change (GCC) is causing the partnerships between the zooxanthellae and corals to breakdown,
which leads to bleaching of the corals and eventually coral death. Without corals, animals
that need the 3D structure corals provide to make a home become homeless. Without a home,
they will leave the reef and the people who depend on the fishes and other animals for food
and tourism will not be able to find them.
Maggie Sogin is studying differences in coral
nutrition as it relates to different types of corals. In particular,
she is interested in metabolites, which are small compounds that are
important to all types of life. Just like wood feeds a fire or builds
a house, metabolites provide all species with energy and build their cells.
In Moorea, she will be describing differences in metabolites between the major
corals on the reef. This is important because understanding these differences may
help to describing the impacts of GCC on different coral species and therefore help
to better predict the future of coral reefs.
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