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Asia Minute: Frozen coral research moves from Hawaiʻi to Australia's Great Barrier Reef

COP27 Australia Great Barrier Reef
Sam McNeil
Corals on the Great Barrier Reef are visible below the waves above Moore Reef in Gunggandji Sea Country off coast of Queensland in eastern Australia on Nov. 14, 2022.

Some leading-edge research on coral that was done in Hawaiʻi is now being applied to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Scientists say the early results look promising.

The process begins with freezing coral larvae, and then storing them in a specially made cryogenic mesh.

Cryogenic simply means extremely cold — in this case, temperatures approaching more than negative 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

That frozen coral can then be reintroduced into the wild, leading to further growth on a developing reef.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that early work on that mesh was done in Hawaiʻi.

The Great Barrier Reef represents a huge testing ground for the technology. Over the last seven years, it's gone through four separate bleaching events — brought on by warmer waters.

Researchers say one key with the cryogenic mesh is that it's lightweight and relatively inexpensive to produce, allowing for a much broader application of the process.

Another mark of this project is its international and multi-organizational nature.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science is taking a leading role, building on work not only done in Hawaiʻi, but also with scientists from the Smithsonian National Zoo.

And that high-tech mesh was developed by a team at the University of Minnesotaʻs College of Science and Engineering.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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