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.

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