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The future of coral reefs

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Stephen Palumbi in the lab

Stephen Palumbi 

Professor, Biology and Ocean Sciences 
Senior fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment 

September 26, 2022

Growing up around the water and marine life, Steve Palumbi always knew his passions were linked to the ocean and what happens within it. As a professor of biology at Stanford, a member of the new Oceans Department, and a marine scientist at the Hopkins Marine Station, Palumbi leads groundbreaking research ranging from genomics of marine organisms to preservation of various marine species. His most recent passion, known as the Super Reefs project, is as heroic as it sounds.  

The project concentrates on coral resilience to ocean heatwaves, but its goals reach far beyond just research. The collaborators – marine biologists, oceanographers, conservationists, and people from surrounding communities – train students, researchers, and community leaders to find heat-resilient corals so they’re able to use the information for local reef management.

“We’re all about the sustainability of these ecosystems during climate change,” Palumbi said. “It’s not just because they’re pretty and diverse, it’s because they support hundreds of millions of people with shore protection and provide food and livelihoods.”

As someone who is eager to use research as a tool for helping communities and advancing oceans issues, Palumbi is excited for how connections through the new Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability can aid the expansion of the Super Reefs project. “This project is ideally suited to the new school because it’s collaborative, it’s global, and it uses a whole lot of expertise that gets put together in the right way,” he said.

Palumbi ultimately hopes to develop the Super Reefs into a global program “To have access to the reach and power of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability with this confluence of talents in the Super Reefs project is really exciting,” Palumbi said. “It’s just the right time and the right place.”

Re:WIRED GREEN 2022: Steve Palumbi discusses the "6th Recovery" and how technology can help accelerate it.