Posted on 18th December 2018 by Media Relations
Taronga Western Plains Zoo continues to play a pivotal role in the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef with Dr Rebecca Hobbs returning from the annual spawning event with cryopreserved coral sperm samples to be stored in the Taronga CryoDiversity Bank in Dubbo.
Collaborators and scientists came together at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in late November in the National Sea Simulator at AIMS in Townsville to collect coral samples at this year’s main spawning event. Scientists from the Taronga Conservation Society Australia and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) were on hand to cryopreserve these samples.
The Reef Recovery program has been running since 2011 and during this time has cryopreserved samples from 21 different coral species that are stored in Dubbo.
“We now have a variety of hard coral species represented in our bank here at the Zoo, including branching (table and staghorn) and brain (massive and encrusting) corals,” said Dr Rebecca Hobbs, Senior Reproductive Biologist.
To maximize the genetic diversity of samples represented in the bank, the team has been collecting samples from different regions of the reef for the last three years. This year was the first opportunity the team has had to collect samples from previously bleached areas of the Northern Great Barrier Reef. This was made possible by the generous support of the Great Barrier Reef Legacy expedition and Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
“The program has helped establish principles for the use of cryopresved coral sperm in future reef management and restoration efforts.”
“The Reef Recovery Program is a great opportunity to work with my fellow collaborators and scientists, it allows us to bring together so many unique and specific skill sets in order to help protect the future of the Great Barrier Reef,” said Dr Hobbs.
Whilst at AIMS, scientists also conducted a cross-fertilisation experiment to test whether sperm banked from the central region of the Great Barrier Reef in 2012 and 2013 could fertilise fresh eggs from the northern region of the Great Barrier Reef.
“The cross-fertilisation experiments saw promising results and we are in the process of analysing the data,” said Dr Hobbs.
“This is the first time we have used the coral samples stored here in Dubbo to undertake an experiment like this and is great to see the program further evolve to safeguard the Great Barrier Reef.”
The samples collected from the Great Barrier Reef can remain frozen, but alive, for hundreds of years. They will be critical to support the structure and future of Australia’s reefs, because if needed, they could be used to restore and potentially reseed reefs.