Ruth Gates laughing in the lab

Ruth Gates, Photo: Elyse Butler

Building on its commitment to funding innovation and solving global challenges, the Annenberg Foundation donated $100,000 to support the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology’s (HIMB) Gates Coral Lab. The institute is a research unit of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

The Gates Coral Lab, established by the late, world-renowned scientist and champion of coral reefs Ruth Gates, expands the basic understanding of how coral reefs function, and is on the forefront of the effort to protect and conserve these beautiful, important, but threatened ecosystems.

“We have lost 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs in the last three decades. If we do nothing, more than 90 percent of coral reefs will die by 2050,” Gates said before her passing.

This generous award from the Annenberg Foundation will support the continuation of Gates’ legacy of preserving coral reefs in the face of warming seas by examining to what extent coral reefs will be able to adapt and why some corals are more resistant to bleaching. Kāneʻohe Bay’s unique coral reef ecosystems will be monitored to provide baseline data on how climate change affects corals, and the Gates Lab will make its data open access and digitally accessible.

“Ruth Gates was a pioneer and leader in ocean research, it will be impossible to fill her shoes but we can all aspire to pursue her vision and ensure that her legacy lives on,“ said Charles Annenberg Weingarten, vice president and director of the Annenberg Foundation, and founder of explore.org.

The Gates Coral Lab works on coral reefs, tropical marine ecosystems that protect coastlines, support tourism, and provide nutrition to communities around the world. Its focus is on defining biological traits that drive the differences in resilience among corals and reefs.

“The Gates Coral Lab is working to improve the prognosis for coral reefs,” said Crawford Drury, a researcher with the Gates Lab. “The Annenberg Foundation’s support provides our team at the HIMB with valuable resources to better understand coral resilience, preserve and restore coral reefs, and ultimately sustain the critical services reefs provide to our world.”

“The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is one of the world’s leading research universities, addressing problems that matter to the people of Hawaiʻi and to the world,” said Michael Bruno, UH Mānoa vice chancellor for research. “Professor Gates led her team with a passion and had a gift for innovative scientific inquiry that is impossible to replicate. But we are committed to carrying forward Ruth’s mission to develop a deeper understanding of the response of coral reefs to climate change, with the aim of saving these vital ecosystems for future generations.”