Steven Vollmer studies coral. One of the species on his radar is staghorn coral, which has long branches resembling male deer antlers. Found mostly off the Florida Keys and in the Caribbean, the coral is on the endangered species list because of white band disease, a condition involving a deadly ring of peeling that starts at its base.
Vollmer said researchers hope to identify the genetic variance that makes some species resistant and others susceptible, and use the knowledge to bring coral back in greater numbers.
That’s the kind of opportunity that has had researchers buzzing since the Ocean Genome Legacy project moved into Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center in Nahant over the winter.
The legacy project has the lofty goal of collecting the genomes — the DNA blueprint — of all creatures in the sea, which could someday be used to cure human diseases, protect the environment, and improve the sustainability of global food and energy supplies.