Over the past few years, news about coral reefs around the world has largely followed one theme: bad news. Coral populations are declining dramatically, with climate change remaining a big threat. But this month, we got some good news about corals in the Florida Keys. Researchers at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Summerland Key found propagated coral they had outplanted in the ocean spawned in the wild. This is a big deal, as it’s the first time restored corals like these have been observed to reach this sexual reproduction milestone. Joining Ira to talk about this big breakthrough is Hanna Koch, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Summerland Key, Florida, and Hollie Putnam, assistant professor of biology at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston.
Dr. Hanna Koch has been given many nicknames, including “coral matchmaker” and “coral fertility doctor.” She’s conducting managed breeding efforts with threatened coral species, part of the coral reef science and restoration mission of Mote Marine Laboratory scientists in the Florida Keys. In this episode of “Two Sea Fans,” Koch explains where coral babies come from, how scientists are helping native corals reproduce sexually in a controlled setting, and why sexual reproduction is so important for providing fresh genetics to coral populations that are struggling in the wild.