Member Highlight: Coral Reef Starter Kit

2019-10-21T15:57:48+00:00 October 18, 2019|
(Credit: Jim E. Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia Commons)

(Credit: Jim E. Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia Commons)

New study shows coral reef fish do not mind 3D-printed corals.

(From University of Delaware/ By Karen B. Roberts ) — Natural disasters such as hurricanes often leave devastation in their wake. Residents living in affected areas are sometimes displaced or require temporary shelter while their homes — or even neighborhoods — are repaired or rebuilt.

But what if you are a fish and your home is a coral reef?

Researchers across the globe are searching for ways to help endangered reefs, and the animals that live there, withstand or recover from weather events, including bleaching and storms that can occur with increasingly warmer water temperatures.

One idea is to use 3D-printed coral models to replace or supplement coral reef systems that have been affected. New research by the University of Delaware’s Danielle Dixson and UD alumnus Emily Ruhl has shown that 3D-printed objects do not impact the behavior of coral-associated damselfish or the survival of a settling stony coral. Further, the study demonstrated that fish showed no preference between materials used to 3D-print artificial corals, opening the door to using environmentally friendly materials, such as biodegradable cornstarch instead of plastic. With mounting concerns about plastic pollution in the marine environment, it is timely evidence that can support environmentally conscious decisions about what is put in the ocean. The researchers reported their results in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed open source journal.

Like others studying this problem, Dixson and Ruhl are looking for ways to keep the right animals on a reef after an emergency to fuel recovery. One important consideration is knowing that any 3D-printed material used won’t harm coral or negatively affect fish behavior. “If the fish on a reef won’t use the 3D-printed coral models as a habitat in the wild, it could place them at greater risk for predation by other larger species,” said Dixson, an associate professor in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment’s School of Marine Science and Policy. “If coral larvae won’t settle on 3D-printed materials, they can’t help to rebuild the reef.” In laboratory experiments, the researchers studied…

Read the full article here: https://www.udel.edu/udaily/2019/october/3D-printed-coral-study-damselfish-Danielle-Dixson/