On the Radio- The coral of the future


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Coral reefs are being destroyed due to coral bleaching (USFWS/flickr)

Eden DeWald | August 6, 2018

This week’s segment explores efforts in Hawaii to grow corals resistant to bleaching.

Transcript:

Scientists are attempting to speed up evolution in an effort to save coral reefs.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Biologists at Gates Coral Lab at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology are working on a way to cross-breed coral species that have resisted coral bleaching or persisted in spite of it. Coral bleaching, a phenomenon that has been slowly killing reefs for years, occurs when corals are stressed by environmental factors, such as pollution or extreme temperature changes.

The Biologists at Hawaii’s Coral Lab are trying to cross-breed resistant species of coral to create something like a super-coral—a variety of coral that can withstand these environmental stressors. This plan is sometimes referred to as assisted evolution, when scientists help speed up the process of evolution to yield stronger varieties of creatures.

Dr. Ruth Gates, director at the Hawaii Institute, isn’t sure if coral reefs would survive past 2050 without some assistance.

For more information, visit Iowa Environmental Focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

Hawaii’s sunscreen ban


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Coral reefs provide food and shelter to numerous marine animals. (flickr/USFWS)

Eden DeWald | July 11th, 2018

Hawaii is making a move to protect its coral reefs. A bill banning the distribution or sale of synthetic sunscreens in Hawaii was signed by Governor David Ige earlier this month. The ban will go into affect in January of 2021, and will prevent the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate.

There are two main types of sunscreen found in any drugstore—chemical and physical. Physical sunscreen, or mineral sunscreen, often has active ingredients such as titanium and zinc oxide, which reflect or scatter UV rays by forming a protective layer on the skin. Synthetic sunscreens, which often contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, soak into the skin. They protect the wearer by changing the electromagnetic affect of UV rays. Physical sunscreens are not at all affected by the ban and will still be available for retail sale and distribution.

According to a 2015 study, oxybenzone has been found to cause the bleaching of coral reefs, as well as endocrine damage. There have been fewer studies done concerning octinoxate, but similar damaging effects have been associated with this chemical. Approximately 14,000 gallons are estimated to end up in the waters off the coast of Hawaii each year, consequently banning sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate has the potential to remove thousands gallons of coral reef damaging chemicals from the environment each year.