Recently Rebecca Hobbs, Senior Reproductive Biologist at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, travelled north to Townsville to participate in the Reef Recovery Program coordinated by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), to continue to conserve one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, the Great Barrier Reef.
In recent years the health of the Great Barrier Reef has become an issue of critical concern due to threats such as climate change, water acidification and global warming. By collecting and analysing the sperm and eggs of these coral species, we may be able to help restore and potentially regenerate the Great Barrier Reef, if necessary, in the future.
The Reef Recovery program has been running since 2011 and involves scientists collecting sperm and eggs during the once-a-year coral spawning event off the Queensland coast. Rebecca joined a group of three other scientists this year, with her major role to collect sperm-egg bundles, performing stem cell experiments and monitoring the coral babies over the first week.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is playing a major role in this program as all of the coral sperm and embryonic cells are cryo-preserved and transported over 1700 kilometres to be stored here on site in Dubbo. The samples are stored in chambers of liquid nitrogen which are -196°C. Staff will continue to monitor growth of coral in the nursery at AIMS over the next 2-3 years to confirm that the coral made from cryopreserved sperm is able to grow to maturity and reproduce.