Wednesday , December 1 2021

Ruth Gates: marine biologist working on "super coral" breeding



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Ruth Gates was a British coral reef biologist and marine environmentalist who was best remembered to defend the cultivation of "super coral", which could withstand the effects of global warming and restore the rapidly deteriorating reefs around the world.

The gate, who died at 56 years of age, was director of the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology at Hawaii University Manoa. She has survived his wife Robin Burton-Gates.

The gate was raised in Kent and said that she was first broadcasting the royal fringes through the sea of ​​moving colors for television films. "Although Cousteau came through television, he discovered the oceans in a way that no one else could do," she said. New York In 2016

At age 11, she said she knew she wanted to be a marine biologist. She continued her doctorate in marine biology, published dozens of scientific papers, and in 2015 became the first woman to be elected president of the International Reef Research Society. She also appeared last year in Emmie's winning Netflix documentary Chasing Coral and became frequent media commentary on reef conservation and on the effects of climate change.

"Corals seem to be the most complex organisms on the planet, so if I understand them, I understand everything," she explained at the beginning of this year on a video of the Hawaiian Foundation University, an organization for collecting funds from the UH system.

Like all coral biologists, Gates studied the extinct organism. During her career, she showed about a third to one half of the world's reef deaths, as the species was decayed by pollution, acidifying the oceans and increasing temperatures, according to scientific calculations.

Corals are tiny, anemone-like animals that often live in huge colonies made of thousands of genetically identical individuals or polyps. Like their sisters, coral polyps are tentacles armed with zeolite cells that can remove water from microscopic food pieces.

Most of the corals have a symbiotic relationship with the smallest algae living in their tissues. And, like plants, these algae are able to use solar energy to create the sugar they share with their animal owners. It was this intimate relationship between the various species that shook and fascinated the gate, so she decided to study coral directly to try to understand the symbiosis at the molecular level.

The gate arrived in Jamaica to complete the fieldwork in 1985, in a timely manner, to show that these symbiotic relationships disappeared. In 1987, the Caribbean was one of the first major cases of coral bleaching when commonly colored animals suddenly lost their impurity partners and their white calcium carbonate skeleton became visible through relatively clear tissues. The early work on the animals helped the biologists realize that such bleaching was a version of a severe standard temperature process.

She held academic positions at the University of California at Los Angeles, before moving to Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) in 2003, where she became director in 2015. Hawaiian Islands, which have a living coral reef right in their yard, had instant access to research experiments.

The most difficult of her efforts were "super corals" – those that have been specifically selected and cultivated for their ability to withstand the warmer, more acidic waters that might occur in the future due to climate change. This is the idea of ​​Gates's early work on coral bleaching and her observation that, no matter how bad the bleaching event was, some single corals always survived.

In 2013 she won a $ 10,000 (£ 7,618) essay contest sponsored by a fund run by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to develop innovative ideas to quickly mitigate acidic oceans.

Upon winning, she later submitted a detailed plan with Madeleine van Oppen, Australian Marine Science Institute, which in 2015 got her a $ 4 million grant from the fund.

"Knowing that time is short to save coral and humanity, Ruth saw the possibility of growing coral, which not only survived aggressive difficulties, but also flourished in difficult conditions," said Brian Taylor, Dean of the University of Hawaii at Manon Okean and Earth Science and Technology, which oversees the Hawaiian Institute. "Her laboratory determines what features make some corals better survivors than others, and reinforce these features through selective cultivation."

The gate was called "accelerated natural selection". The pace of environmental change has significantly exceeded the coral capacity to adapt, "she said in a 2018 UH Foundation video.

She identified the worst corals by choosing those who survived the hotter waters in the laboratory and working on their cultivation to create even more flexible corals. It is similar to a process in which farmers grew stronger crops. Finally, she said that these "super-coral" could be used to supplement reefs after mass destruction, such as the recent years experienced by the Great Barrier Reef from the northeast of Australia.

The project is the fourth year, and this has led to several scientific publications, but, according to Himb colleagues, it only gets to the ground. In addition to the selection and cultivation of flexible coral, project participants continue to study how flexion is passed on from generation to generation, and the possibility of inoculation of corals with more thermally durable strains of algae and other symbiotic organisms (a kind of "Coral Probiotics") is being explored. Projects are now in the hands of her students and colleagues.

The gates' vision from the scientific community criticized some.

"I believe it is unlikely that in a few years we will succeed, which development has not been successful over the last few hundred million years," said Ken Caldeira, researcher at the Carnegie Institut of Science at Stanford University. said New Yorker in 2016. "There is this idea that it should be a bit easy to technically correct, as long as we could be creative enough to find it. I think I just do not think it's true."

Others felt that super corals are worried about more important goals, such as reducing carbon emissions. "Let's put our energy and resources on something we know will change," commented colleague Himb Paul Jokiel Newsweek In 2016

Gates were run, but did not consider her plan to be the only solution, friends said to the publications. "I really do not care about" me, "she told me New York. "I'm worried about what's going on with coral. If I could do something that would help them save and immortalize in the future, I'll do everything I can."

Ruth Deborah Gates was born in Akrotiri, Cyprus, on March 28, 1962. She was growing mainly in Kent, where she attended boarding school while her parents traveled with her father in military intelligence. Her mother was a physiotherapist.

She received a Bachelor's degree in 1984 from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, near the North Sea, and in 1990 received a doctorate in marine biology.

In September she married her companion for four years. In addition to his wife, the survivors also include a brother.

Gates often noted the resistance she encountered as a young woman trying to pursue a career in science, and she became a strong lawyer for her students, regardless of gender. When the president of the International Reef Research Association was elected, one of her first activities was the diversification of staff. She was known in society for her disarming charisma, a calming English accent, which was soothed by heavy sand, as her training was a martial artist. She had reached the black belt in karate.

"I watched some reefs break into my eyes," she said Times Higher Education Annex In 2016 "I simply can not perceive the idea that future generations may not have a coral reef. The mission is to start solving the problem rather than just exploring it."

Ruth Gates, biologist, born March 28, 1962, died on October 25, 2018

© Washington Post

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