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Down but Not Out: Orbicella Corals are Fighters

By on December 14, 2018 in Coral Reefs, News

Ana Yranzo Duque is one of our new EDGE Fellows who is working to understand more about two vitally important coral species found in Venezuela – Orbicella annularis and Orbicella faveolata. With the help of her team, she is trying to assess the current status of the species populations in Morrocoy Marine Coastal National Park following a mass die-off event 20 years ago.

Her Fellowship focuses primarily on these two Orbicella species because they are the main reef-builders, both in Morrocoy and across the Caribbean. By protecting these species, Ana hopes to secure the future of the coral reefs and the benefits they provide to local people.

As with all EDGE species, despite serious threats, they persist and Orbicella are no exception. Ana explains:

As sessile animals, Orbicella corals can´t go away, so they have to develop defence strategies to ‘’fight’’ against the factors that compromise their health and survival. That is really amazing; they are the best example of adaptation to adverse conditions, even today with the severe effects of climate change.”

                     Orbicella faveolata corals | Image Credit: Ana Yranzo Duque

Ana’s project is wide ranging from determining aspects like the abundance, density and size of coral colonies to measuring the physio-chemical parameters of the reef study sites. With all of this going on, she says she has learnt a great deal about how to best co-ordinate a project amidst the tough conditions in Venezuela. She adds that the support of her team and their alliance with FUDENA (Foundation for the Defence of Nature) has been instrumental in the project’s progress.

Data Collection | Image Credit: Ana Yranzo Duque

Scientific research projects are full of rewards and challenges. Although it’s been tough to organise survey logistics, Ana says her desire to complete her project is stronger than ever. It all pays off when, during her first field trip she fondly remembers that a pod of dolphins played right next to the boat! As if it couldn’t get any better, during the same trip she also witnessed a squid feeding on a big fish with its tentacles – it stopped as if it was posing while she eagerly snapped pictures like the paparazzi.

Overall though, Ana’s take-away from her project so far has been that teamwork makes the dream work:

The most important thing about the project is that it is possible to meet the goals by working all together (both locally and internationally (EDGE)) and this is really great. Joining forces to jointly contribute to the conservation of unique species, such as the Orbicella corals is really the best example of team work to achieve a common goal.”

Read more about Ana’s EDGE project here.