Alexi Meltel, a former PICRC intern, recently returned to the Center for three weeks to conduct field research for her Ph.D. in Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Her project explores how Porites lobata, or lobe corals, have adapted to different levels of ocean temperature and acidity in Ngermid Bay.

Meltel first joined PICRC as an intern in 2016, working with researchers to monitor marine protected areas.

“PICRC conducts great research for Palau by Palauan scientists” said Meltel. “It was a pleasure to work with PICRC again for my field research and learn more about Palau’s marine environment.”

As part of her Ph.D. research, Meltel collected tissues samples, called ‘cores’, from lobe coral colonies at four sites throughout Ngermid Bay. By analyzing the gene and protein expression in these samples, she can determine how these corals have adapted to the conditions on their reefs.

“Ngermid Bay is quite a bit more acidic than rest of Palau’s ocean, but corals like Porites lobata still thrive there” continued Meltel. “My research is exploring how P. lobata colonies in acidic areas have adapted to cope with this stress and how they are different from colonies living in normal seawater.”

Ultimately, Meltel’s research will shed new light on how Palau’s coral reefs could respond to climate change and ocean acidification as well as management techniques that could sustain reefs into the future.

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