Harmony Martell
Author: Daniel Barshis
2023

Harmony Martell

Marine Scientist/Underwater Photographer

reef resilience 101

meet harmony

Harmony A. Martell studies what makes corals resistant to bleaching and develops techniques to enhance coral resilience against climate change. Her work has led her from the lab to coral reefs around the world, where she has conducted experimental research. She holds a PhD in Ecological Sciences from Old Dominion University and has advanced degrees in Marine Biology and Coastal Zone Management. A former high school science teacher, Martell has led numerous science outreach initiatives for underrepresented groups, using her voice, research, and art to advocate and inspire change.

reef resilience 101
Nominated by: Charlton Shackleton MI'21
Class of 2023 Location North Carolina, USA
Author: Harmony Martell

Coral reefs occupy less than 0.1 percent of the seafloor, yet more than one billion human beings rely upon them for survival and prosperity. Climate change threatens to eliminate coral reefs, jeopardizing communities worldwide. While we are already committed to a large degree of warming, we have the tools and the capacity to cease the deleterious effects of climate change.

“Climate change threatens to eliminate coral reefs, jeopardizing communities worldwide. While we are already committed to a large degree of warming, we have the tools and the capacity to cease the deleterious effects of climate change.”

- Harmony Martell

As a coral physiologist, I have been working to understand coral metabolism under changing temperature and light conditions, which lead to mass coral bleaching. I am currently working with scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science to determine how coral shading, a treatment to prevent bleaching, influences coral metabolism, an important determinant of coral health. I also investigate how the mechanisms of coral stress memory can be optimized to harden corals used for restoration. Along with my colleagues, I have partnered with the largest restoration organization in the world, Coral Restoration Foundation, where my work is being used to inform restoration techniques to replenish degraded reefs. If we can understand how thermal history—i.e., the temperature a coral has experienced—influences coral performance, we can identify better restoration sites and perhaps even sites that can naturally harden corals against future stress. My hope for the future is that governments will take swift action to mitigate climate change so corals can persist.

Ensuring the survival of corals, the framework of the reef, enables the communities that rely on coral reefs to thrive. Reducing the imminent threats from climate change will conserve all ecosystems globally.

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