Among the potential genetic and reproductive solutions to mitigating the coral reef crisis is coral cryopreservation and the building of repositories to store material. Cryopreservation is the process of cooling and storing cells or tissues at very low temperatures to maintain their viability. The precise protocols for preservation have to be empirically developed for each species and cell type. Preserved material must then be stored under specific conditions with accompanying information stored in databases. Frozen tissue can then be used to revive coral genotypes that are extinct in the wild or use frozen gametes to generate new genotypes.
Development of coral cryopreservation protocols and building of repositories are strong solutions to buy time as other solutions to the coral crisis are developed. Material stored in repositories could be used for assisted gene flow, assisted migration and material for genetic research aimed at breeding corals that are more resistant to global warming.
The ad-hoc group is led by chair, Virginia Weis (Oregon State University).
The Cryopreservation group bridges a gap between existing CRC groups focused on genetics, reproduction and restoration.
Develop sets of guidelines and standard operating procedures to preserve coral material by investing in research on model systems.
Develop a plan for the best use of cryopreservation tools during spawning events over the next two to three years (in collaboration with CRC Genetics Working Group).
Develop a plan for incorporating cryopreservation and repositories in operations (in collaboration with CRC Working Groups).
WHAT WE'RE WORKING ON
Developing a set of guidelines and standard operating procedures to preserve coral material.
A focus on model systems, such as the non-symbiotic hydroid Hydractinia symbiolongicarpus, and two sea anemone species, the non-symbiotic Nematostella vectensis and the symbiotic Exaiptasia pallida, would allow for rapid advancement in technique development by freeing researchers from the limitations of rare coral spawns. These model systems are cultured by hundreds of research labs worldwide and their chief benefit is robust reproduction in a laboratory setting. Hydractinia, Nematostella, and Aiptasia spawn eggs and sperm daily, weekly and bi-weekly respectively.