OIST Coral Project: Launching the world’s first coral reef conservation project using the latest genome research

Individuals and companies are encouraged to support this project to protect the beautiful oceans of Okinawa and the world!

Coral Project Press Release Header

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) will launch the "OIST Coral Project" on July 17, Japan’s Marine Day.

Coral reefs are one of the richest places on earth in terms of biodiversity, with approximately 30% of all marine species said to live there. Not only do they provide us with seafood, they also serve as natural breakwaters that protect coastal areas, attract tourists, and support local economies.

However, coral reefs around the world are disappearing at an unprecedented scale and rate due to human activities and climate change.

This project will work to conserve coral reefs in Okinawa and around the world by monitoring them using environmental DNA technology established by OIST and conducting research using the latest genome analysis technology.

At the launch of the project today, OIST President Karin Markides said, "This is an unprecedented coral reef conservation project linked to powerful genomic science. It also provides an opportunity for people, including local children, to learn about the environment and biodiversity, and for you to participate."

Dr. Karin Markides
OIST President Dr. Karin Markides delivers the remarks.
OIST President Dr. Karin Markides delivers the remarks.

The project's initiator, Professor Nori Satoh, head of the OIST Marine Genomics Unit, is a developmental, evolutionary, and molecular biologist whose research has focused on the invertebrate group, ascidian. He said, "In my 50 years of research career, I never expected to become so absorbed in the study of corals. However, my contact with coral here in Okinawa, meeting coral researchers, and people who are working to conserve coral has inspired my desire to contribute to coral and the ocean by applying the knowledge I have gained from my research," he said.

The Marine Genomics Unit was the first in the world to decode the genomes of corals in 2011, zooxanthellae that symbiotically live with corals and perform photosynthesis in 2013, and starfish that devour corals in 2017. Genomes are all the genetic information essential for understanding living organisms. Based on this genome information, the research group has made various discoveries and developed coral-related technologies , including technologies to analyze coral genomes with high precision and to identify corals using environmental DNA (eDNA) obtained from seawater.

Prof. Noriyuki Satoh
Prof. Nori Satoh explaines the project.
Prof. Nori Satoh explaines the project.

Eight Japanese companies - NTT DoCoMo, Inc., Ryukyu Cement Co., Ltd., Kariyushi Hotels Co., Ltd., Ryuseki Corporation, SECOM Ryukyu Co., Ltd., Zaizen Eneshift Co., Ltd., Oceana Co. Ltd., Okinawa Kankou Kaihatsu, Ltd. - will participate as the initial special partner companies. Representatives from each company attended the launch event and expressed their expectations for the project.

The project plans to conduct research on biodiversity restoration through cultivation of cultured coral in Onna Village, where OIST is located, and to begin monitoring the waters around Zamami Island in the fall of this year. 

OIST Advancement Officer, Mr. Shimon Sato, who is leading the fundraising for this project, said "We need the support of many companies and individuals to make this project a success. Let's work together to protect the coral reefs and oceans of Okinawa and the world”. Please lend your support to this project.”

Coral project group photo
Eight initial Special Partners and Mayor of Zamami Village attend the OIST Coral Project Launch.
Eight initial Special Partners and Mayor of Zamami Village attend the OIST Coral Project Launch.

We welcome and would greatly appreciate your support for the OIST Coral Project.

For more information on how to support the project, please visit the website (Japanese language only).

Research Unit

For press enquiries, please contact media@oist.jp

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