SMALL MOLECULES ARE A BIG DEAL

Differences in coral metabolites

Graduate Student: Maggie Sogin

diver

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.

diver

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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