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Class of 2022


Sponsoring Department:
Summer 2021

Corals are brightly colored marine invertebrates composed of sac-like polyps that produce calcium carbonate which bind individual organisms together creating colonies called coral reefs. They are commonly named the “rainforest of the ocean” because of the unique biodiversity of species that the reef’s ecosystem supports. However, coral reefs would not be able to survive without the symbiotic relationship between the coral’s skeletons and marine plankton called dinoflagellates which create energy for the coral (Roth et al.). Varying environmental factors, such as rising ocean temperatures, are interrupting this relationship causing the coral to “bleach” and die making them endangered. As a result, the ecosystem the coral reef supports and the species they protect die along with it.

However, fluorescent proteins, which give corals their bright colors, may help coral to fight back against these environmental factors because they convert wavelengths of light into a usable form of energy for the dinoflagellates. Thus, fluorescent proteins are an important topic of study for preserving oceanic ecosystems. However, despite advances in understanding the roles and the mechanisms of fluorescent proteins and the structural features that determine their parameters, they are not fully understood (Matz et al.).