A small coral polyp taken from under a microscope.

Quality control of genetic diversity in coral aquaculture

Animals’ genes are critical in how they respond to their surrounding environment. For reef-building corals, this genetic makeup is one of the key attributes that give these organisms a better chance to survive the challenges faced in a variable and rapidly changing climate. For example, corals’ ability to resist warm water bleaching is the result of many factors, including the genetic makeup they inherit from parent corals. Therefore, for reef restoration efforts, the assessment of genetic diversity is important in the production of ecologically suitable corals in aquaculture settings. 

This project will assess how genetic diversity changes over the course of coral reproduction, husbandry, and grow-out in an aquaculture setting.  

Generation of large-scale genetic datasets are required to understand how the aquaculture process influences genetic diversity of the progenies through time, and contrast this to the natural genetic pools on reefs.  

We are exploring new techniques to fast-track population-scale genetic monitoring as a quality control process in large scale coral aquaculture.  

Future applications include tracking genes responsible for heat tolerance and facilitating their distribution to areas of the Great Barrier Reef in anticipation of future warming.