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August 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 45, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Can Genetic Engineering Save Coral Reefs?

from the August, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Global warming is decimating the world's reefs. Watching that happen to Australia's Great Barrier Reef has transformed Madaleine Van Oppen, a coral geneticist at the University of Melbourne, into a leading advocate of something that was considered radical until recently: creating breeds of coral that can withstand warmer water.

Van Oppen and her colleagues are re-engineering corals with techniques as old as the domestication of plants and as new as the latest gene-editing tools. A feature story in Science explains how Van Oppen and the team of researchers she's leading at the National Sea Simulator in Townsville are busy cross-breeding corals in tanks in a rush to find a solution to the annihilation of the world's largest reef system, just 50 miles offshore. Their efforts have helped make Australia, which recently committed AUS$300 million to coral research and restoration, a global magnet for reef scientists.

Read about Van Oppen's efforts in this most interesting profile at

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