An exciting new era of research has begun at the Coral Reef Research Unit at the University of Essex.
Its new tropical research aquarium facility is now up and running and will greatly enhance the diversity of research undertaken at Essex.
The £50,000 aquarium doubles up as a research facility and a coral husbandry facility, taking away the need to buy coral for experiments and enabling the research unit to address key research questions under controlled laboratory conditions.
It is unique in terms of its experimental chambers where different environments can be created and will showcase the world-class coral research being carried out at the university.
Dr Dave Smith, director of the unit, said: “We now have total control over coral growth conditions and this will enable us to answer key questions from the molecular to the ecosystem level. It is a new era of research for us and UK coral science.”
Projects currently being carried out at the aquarium include research funded by NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) into how different environments affect coral mortality.
A second project, funded by Mitsubishi’s global coral taskforce initiative, is to better understand how the structure of a reef varies by climate change.
Explained Dr Smith. “It is very important to determine how reefs will most likely respond to climate change, how fundamental changes will influences coral reef diversity and productivity and therefore the effects of climate change on the numerous ecosystem services provided by reefs to the half a billion dependants globally.
“It is all about linking the biological implications with the social implications and ensuring that the Unit’s research activities have maximum impact.”