The project is the first phase of a 15-year project to compare coral population data and study the causes and effects of coral bleaching -- a worldwide phenomenon --that is increasing in severity and is extremely detrimental to the health of coral reefs.
Van Woesik is a member of the Bleaching Working Group, which comprises 11 leading international scientists, and was founded by the UNESCO/Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in 2001. The group has developed indicators specifically for coral bleaching.
"Our group examines the specific physiological mechanisms for coral bleaching as well as the local and regional ecological factors that cause bleaching and its after-effects. We are examining which coral species are the 'winners,' and which are the 'losers,' and why, to allow us to predict the future of coral reefs and, we hope, direct management and environmental policy to minimize further declines," said Van Woesik.
Last fall, Van Woesik and other Florida Tech faculty members received a $50,000 grant from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to set up a Coral Database (CoralData) node for the southeast region of the U.S. The team hopes to extend this database to include a national database and ultimately an international coral database.
Van Woesik also has established a Web site for the International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS), which is hosted by Florida Tech and is accessed by thousands of people around the world from at least 65 countries.