It's not much of a stretch to say there's work happening just off our coastline that's vital to the future of our reefs.
Click here to watch Nana Ohkawa's report.
Some University of Hawaii marine biologists are trying to create "designer" reefs. It's the coral of the future.
Colorful, dark coral is healthy, so the sight in Kaneohe Bay is encouraging. But it's not like that everywhere. Scientists say corals are dying at an alarming rate, with countless diseases taking their toll. The race is on to reverse that trend.
"If one is going to design an intervention and what we are suggesting is an intervention this is the time to do it. While you still have biological material to work with," said the head researcher, Dr. Ruth Gates.
Gates and a team of marine biologists are putting years of science to the test and breeding corals on Coconut Island. The goal, they said, is to create super "designer" corals that will be better fit to survive any environmental changes ahead. They stress it is not a GMO reef.
"We are not introducing foreign DNA, which is what is done with GMOs. We are accelerating natural processes by selecting from a population those members that are most hardy in terms of future conditions," said Gates.
When the the strong corals are identified, they will be bred to create strong offspring.
There are different temperatures and acidity levels in each tank for scientists to figure out which corals will do well in future environments.
"Those conditions will be warmer and the water more acidic than they are today," said Gates.
That's a combination that can be difficult for coral, and it's clearly living when viewed at a microscopic level. Breeding coral that can stand up to the elements will hopefully help it survive. Scientists said coral can return the favor by continuing to protect our islands.
"When we have storms come in, they serve as barriers to those storms so they diminish the energy the storm waves hit the reef and energy is diminished before it hits the land mass," said Gates.
Coral also helps our food supply and economy. The eggs and sperm will be collected from the corals this summer. Gates hopes to implement the project fully within five years.
Gates recently won the Regents' Medal for Excellence in Research. She also just won an award for the reef research from the Paul G. Allen Foundation.