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Coral Health Experts Convene in Madison
Released: 4/21/2004

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Lou Sileo 1-click interview
Phone: 608-270-2461

Gail Moede 1-click interview
Phone: 608-270-2438

Coral reefs are not often associated with Wisconsin, but coral scientists are meeting in Madison next week to discuss diseases afflicting coral around the world. Even though Madison is over 1,200 miles from the closest coral reefs, which are in Florida, it is home to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC). USGS is co-sponsoring The Coral Disease and Health Workshop, April 26 - 29. The Coral Disease and Health Consortium and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also sponsors.

The USGS scientists at NWHC specialize in wildlife disease investigations, for diagnosing disease and understanding disease pathology in wild animals, thus, it is an ideal learning laboratory for coral scientists who need to know more about this process. Coral experts span many scientific disciplines across the globe; workshop participants include biologists, microbiologists, ecologists, pathologists, veterinarians, laboratory specialists, and field specialists. Scientists are coming from across the U.S. and from Israel and the UK.

"Reef systems are windows into the world of marine, air, water and ecosystem health. It is essential that we better understand not only how to observe, but more importantly, what diagnostic criteria to use to better characterize coral reef health and disease", says Dr. Leslie Dierauf, NWHC Director.

"Corals are the proverbial canary in the coal mine regarding the health of marine ecosystems," says Dr. Thierry Work, head scientist at NWHC’s Hawaii Field Station. "Coral reefs are the rainforests of the ocean. Many communities in the Pacific depend on reefs for their economic livelihood. In the Caribbean, coral disease has wiped out reefs. If we are to manage reefs for the benefit of future generations, we need to better understand the role of disease." Some of the major threats to reefs include development, overfishing, and disease.

The USGS’s laboratory in Madison is well poised to grapple with coral disease because of the wealth of expertise in disease investigations. NWHC has been investigating diseases of marine organisms in the Pacific since 2001 and has recently begun collaborating with investigators in the Caribbean.

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