Science Saturday: CORALIUM

Hi, CORALIUM (El laboratorio de Investigación Integral Para la Conservación de Arrecifes / Integrative Reef Conservation Research Laboratory)! Welcome to our Reef Community here on Reefbites.

CORALIUM began in 1999 with Dr Anastazia Banaszak’s incorporation into the National Autonomous University of Mexico / Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico to study the effects of UV radiation on different stages of the life cycle of marine organisms. The Laboratory’s mission is to apply science to coral reef restoration, develop nature-based restoration solutions, develop and upscale larval-based restoration interventions and to replicate these throughout the Caribbean.

Fig. 1 Training of participants in workshops that include topics ranging from net-building, gamete collection and larval culturing to sperm cryopreservation. Coralium hosts the only cryopreserved coral sperm bank in Mexico. Workshops have been funded by SECORE International, Alianza World Wildlife Fund-Fundación Carlos Slim, Xcaret Aquarium, The Nature Conservancy and the Mexican Commission for Science and Technology (CONACYT). Photo by Paul Selvaggio.

What services do you provide the community?

When not underwater or in the lab, CORALIUM students and researchers are passionate about science communication and outreach, participating in public outreach events and talks. Each year we give talks to the local community, to schools and participate in science fairs.
We have developed an education app to teach people of all ages about corals, you can download it for free here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.greca.coralium&hl=en_US&gl=US

What research projects/conservation efforts/citizen science do you have going on at the moment?

Our annual coral spawning season lasts from May until October, when we work around the clock to capture and fertilise coral gametes from multiple reef sites on the Mexican Caribbean coastline and with collaborating sites in Belize, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Outside of these times, we are generally working on upgrades and maintenance to our laboratories and aquaria, as well as monitoring the survival of our juvenile corals in the field and developing experiments to better understand the processes driving coral survival and reproduction. We help the local national park of Puerto Morelos with environmental outreach programs and with in-water activities, such as rescuing dislodged corals after hurricanes or ship groundings.

Fig. 2 Acropora palmata colonies that were produced in the lab using assisted fertilization from wild-caught gametes and outplanted onto a reef that was affected by a ship-grounding almost 30 years ago with no subsequent natural recovery. The project to restore the area was carried out in conjunction with the National Fisheries Institute and funded by the Mexican Commission for Biodiversity (CONABIO). Photo by Sandra Mendoza.
Fig. 3 Three year old Acropora palmata colony produced using assisted fertilization from wild-caught gametes, settled onto artificial substrates, designed by SECORE International, and outplanted onto a degraded reef. The project was funded by the Alianza World Wildlife Fund-Fundación Carlos Slim.

Do you have volunteer opportunities?

We have always welcomed students and volunteers from across the world whenever we have space in the lab. We can receive applications from the ICRS student community, however, at the moment we are under tight restrictions due to the COVID pandemic, so please understand if we cannot receive you at this time.

Do you have internships/fellowships opportunities?

Our internships and fellowships are via the Mexican education system, which encourages undergraduate students to take a 6-month professional placement in their field of study. We also host international students for their graduate research placements. Our current graduate students are from Colombia, Cuba, the United Kingdom and Mexico.

Do you have facilities for scientists to stay?

Puerto Morelos is a beautiful, quiet town just south of Cancun. There are plenty of options for visitors. There are some dormitories on site, but there are also affordable hotels and holiday homes nearby.

Organization/Institution Website:

https://www.icmyl.unam.mx/puerto_morelos/quienes_somos/personal_academico/dra-anastazia-teresa-banaszak

Facebook handle: https://www.facebook.com/CoraliumLab/

Instagram handle: @coraliumlab

Twitter handle: @coraliumlab

What advice or tips would you give people who want to help conserve/protect reefs but do not have access to volunteering? Any actions they can do from home?

Help to spread the word to friends, students and others about the plight of coral reefs, e.g. you can host a Chasing Coral night and afterwards have a discussion about what you can all do.
Take the pledge developed by the International Coral Reef Society (http://coralreefs.org/pledge-4-reefs/) to support policies that favour coral reefs, to reduce your carbon footprint and to promote education and awareness.

Are there any collaborations/partnerships you would like to highlight?

We have been fortunate to have developed many partnerships and collaborations over the years. Locally we have an important collaboration with the Parque Nacional Arrecife de Puerto Morelos of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the National Fisheries Department. Internationally we have a long-standing successful partnership with SECORE International. This collaboration has been involved in capacity-building and training of global participants as well as researching into the upscaling larval-based restoration efforts. Given that trainings are undertaken in English or Spanish we have had the pleasure of working with many people and organizations throughout the Caribbean.

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