Feature Friday: Maayan Neder

Hi, Maayan Neder! Great to have you on ReefBites.

Maayan is a PhD student at Haifa University and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, studying coral biomineralization during early development stages. Read more about Maayan’s work below!

Give an elevator pitch of what your research/project is about.

My current study is focusing on how corals are initiating their exoskeleton. For this purpose, I’m comparing the larval stages, which are considered to be the non-calcifying stage, to the newly settled primary polyps, which massive calcification occurs during this stage. In addition, I’m trying to understand how the animal is concentrating some of the seawater ions into the skeleton. My research combines verity of microscopy and spectroscopy methods, together with molecular approaches.

Why is this research/project important and timely?

Coral reefs produce approximately 1012 kg of calcium carbonate per year. Despite the importance of this process, the exact mechanism underlying the calcium carbonate precipitation by the animal is still poorly understood and many basic aspects are still unknown. My research is aiming to provide insights on the role of the animal in this process. Understanding this process will enable geochemists to better reconstruct the paleo environmental conditions and to examine past extreme climate conditions.  

What is the broader impact and implication of your findings?

Coral reefs are threatened with extinction in the coming century. The two of the major stressors are temperature and pH; both are related to increased emissions of CO2 to the atmosphere. In order to predict how these stressors will effect on corals in the future, it is important to understand the fundamental processes such as coral physiology, reproduction and calcification, which are crucial for the reef to survive.

How did you come to work in this field/project?

Corals were always fascinating to me, mainly due to the fact that these tiny polyps forms one of the most dominant bio-contraction in the ocean. I started my MSc in Tali Mass’s lab which is focusing on how this process occurs. I always wanted to work on early development stages, and when I had the chance to choose my research question, it was the obvious thing to do. It allows me to acquire experience in diverse fieldwork, and to use multiple in-situ analyses.

What is your top graduate school life hack or survival resource?

Part of been located at the intra-university institute (IUI) in Eilat, next to the amazing coral reef, allows me to dive and snorkel almost every day during the year. During my time as a PhD student, I have gotten certified to dive with a rebreather, which allows me to dive for longer periods of time for underwater work. Once in a while, after a long time in the lab, or next to the computer, I’m taking a break to enjoy the reef. Then it gives me the motivation to continue to work.        

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