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Freezing the Reef

Establishing the Great Barrier Reef CryoReserve

Coral around the world face both global and local threats.  We have the opportunity to restore local areas of die off or damage by propagating key coral species and transplanting them back onto the reef, but first we need to bank valuable species. We will never again have as much genetic diversity as we do right now, so we are working hard to establish and apply the science around Great Barrier Reef coral cryopreservation. The first two spawning seasons have been conducted with great success. Two species that are essential to the structure and function of the reef were targeted for cryopreservation. Both sperm and embryonic cells have been successfully frozen, thawed and cultured to test survival through the process. We have enough material to produce over 200 million colonies given our test success and the skills and resources of Australian Institute of Marine Science staff remain available to us. This work will continue in the coming season (mid November) so that we can publish this work next year. A portion of these cells will be kept frozen at Taronga Western Plains Zoo and cared for until they are needed to re-seed the reef. Some cells will be thawed to advance much needed research in coral development, resilience and adaptation to ocean acidification and warming. Excitingly, we have now been approached to set up similar banks in Fiji and in Cambodia, recognisance work is currently underway to determine the political will and feasibility of these opportunities.

Project Partners:

Taronga: Dr Rebecca Spindler, Dr Rebecca Hobbs
Smithsonian Institution: Dr Mary Hagedorn, Virginia Carter, Mike Henley (PhD Student)
Australian Institute of Marine Science: Dr Madeleine Van Oppen                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Monash University: Prof Doug Macfarlane 


Hagedorn M, Spindler, RE, Van Oppen MJ, MacFarlane D. 2011. Freezing the Great Barrier Reef: an investment in our future. The Conversation. 

Hagedorn M, van Oppen MJ, Carter V, Henley M, Abrego D, Puill-Stephan E, Negri A, Heyward A, MacFarlane D, Spindler R. 2012 First frozen repository for the Great Barrier Reef coral created. Cryobiology. 65:157-8

Hagedorn M, Spindler R. 2014. The reality, use and potential for cryopreservation of coral reefs. Adv Exp Med Biol. 753:317-29

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