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So what are YOU doing this summer?

May 11, 2012

Are you a budding college-aged scientist or educator?

If so, consider this: National Council for Science and the Environment

The National Park Service Climate Change Response Program has awarded its climate change research and internship projects for 2012. Out of the 40 projects and fellowships, a remarkable 5 of them are in Pacific Island National Parks.

War in the Pacific National Historical Park – Hagatna, Guam – identify and map the coral reef areas and coral colonies to be monitored for coral bleaching sensitivity in order to develop a monitoring plan that can be implemented throughout the year by youth volunteers.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park – Hard corals create reefs that support the most biologically diverse communities in the world’s oceans. Essential to the growth and survival of those corals is the presence, inside the coral animal’s tissue, of symbiotic algae. As the algae undergo photosynthesis, they produce sugars the corals use to grow. When the surrounding water gets too warm, the corals evict their symbiotic algae, a process called coral bleaching. Global climate change is warming the surface waters of tropical oceans, and bleaching events are becoming more common and long-lasting. This study will compare the temperature sensitivity and the physiology of the coral-algae partnership in two coral species from Hawaii.

National Park of American Samoa – Some coral species, populations, and even individuals are more resistant to heat stress than others. Understanding how and why sensitivity to temperature is so variable is essential for conserving these critically important organisms. This project will compare the temperature sensitivity and coral bleaching responses of two colonies of Acropora hyacinthusthat live in adjacent pools in American Samoa, one with high and variable temperatures, the other with more stable temperatures. Short and long-term exposure to different temperatures will reveal how readily the corals can adjust to heat shock, and molecular genetic techniques will reveal which genes confer temperature tolerance.

National Park of American Samoa– Atmospheric carbon dioxide not only increases the average temperature of the planet, it also increases the acidity of the ocean. The ability of corals and other marine organisms to build hard skeletons will be hampered as ocean water becomes more acidic. Thus, it is important to understand how temperature and acidity (pH) together affect coral growth and to understand how corals adjust over the short and long term to changes in their environment. This study will compare, through observation and experiment, the growth and environmental sensitivity of a coral species that naturally experience different combinations of temperature and pH on the same reef in American Samoa.

Several Hawaiian National Parks – Anchialine pools are small bodies of brackish water along the coast connected to the ocean only through underground passages. Four national parks on the Big Island of Hawaii protect these unique habitats, the endemic species they harbor, and the values they have to indigenous Hawaiian culture. The pools will be severely affected by rising sea level, but specific impacts are difficult to predict and manage because basic information is lacking. This study will map existing pools, including the distribution of key native and invasive species, identify possible future pools at higher elevation, and assess habitat condition. As a result, park managers will be better able to plan on how to adapt to rising sea level.

So what are you working on this summer?

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