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Newly funded studies bolster kelp forest conservation & address climate change impacts

By August 15, 2023August 16th, 2023No Comments

Healthy kelp forest | Sage Ono

Morris Animal Foundation and Revive & Restore recently announced the funding of seven new projects focused on conservation and restoration of wildlife in kelp forest ecosystems.

DENVER/Aug. 15, 2023 Morris Animal Foundation and Revive & Restore have jointly announced funding for seven new projects focused on genomic sequencing and biobanking to protect and manage wildlife in vital kelp forest ecosystems. The selected projects are part of the Wild Genomes program. The program, which is co-funded by both organizations along with grants from anonymous family foundations, is an initiative aimed at developing applied genomics tools for wildlife conservation.  

“Kelp forests are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world and are heavily impacted by warming ocean temperatures,” said Dr. Kathy Tietje, Chief Program Officer at Morris Animal Foundation. “The collaboration between Morris Animal Foundation and Revive & Restore establishes a portfolio of projects focused on species conservation along our ocean coastlines.”  

Kelp ecosystems are integral to marine biodiversity, providing a home for myriad species, including sea otters, sea dragons and sharks. These animals rely on the stability of kelp forests for finding shelter, food, and protection from predators. Additionally, kelp forests support a wide array of fish species, such as herring and rockfish, which are vital for the food webs in these ecosystems. 

“The significance of kelp forests in supporting intricate food webs in the ocean cannot be overstated. The selected projects hold great promise for conservation applications today and will demonstrate the value of genomic sequencing and biobanking for kelp forest restoration efforts.”

Dr. Bridget Baumgartner

Director of Research & Development at Revive & Restore

Grant recipients and their topics are:

Filipe Alberto, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

will study the genomic architecture related to temperature response in bull kelp. His work can inform strategies to mitigate climate change impacts on kelp forests.

Romina Henriques, University of Pretoria

will create the first detailed reference genome for pyjama sharks, which can inform their conservation strategies today and far into the future.

Fabiola Lafarga de la Cruz, Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education

will generate much-needed genomic data on surviving populations of black abalone to help with conservation of this endangered species.

Stefan Prost, University of Oulu

will develop a rapid, relatively inexpensive genomic monitoring strategy based on the genomics of blue mussels to detect kelp forest ecosystems under environmental stress.

Samuel Starko, University of Western Australia

will collect reproductive brown seaweed individuals for biobanking. His team will sequence and assemble genomes from two brown seaweed species to inform management strategies.

Josefin Stiller, University of Copenhagen

will sequence the genomes of leafy and common sea dragons to better understand current population health status and improve conservation risk assessment of these kelp-dwelling fishes.

Terrie Williams, University of California, Santa Cruz

will sequence samples from sea otters to estimate inbreeding. She will also construct a pedigree for this subpopulation and high-quality dataset to inform future translocation efforts.

About Morris Animal Foundation

Morris Animal Foundation’s mission is to bridge science and resources to advance the health of animals. Founded in 1948 and headquartered in Denver, it is one of the largest nonprofit animal health research organizations in the world, funding nearly $160 million in more than 3,000 critical animal health studies to date across a broad range of species. Learn more at

About Revive & Restore

Revive & Restore is the leading wildlife conservation organization promoting the incorporation of biotechnologies into standard conservation practice. The Sausalito, California nonprofit was formed in 2012 with the idea that 21st century biotechnology can and should be used to enhance genetic diversity, build disease resistance, and facilitate adaptation. Its mission is to enhance biodiversity through the genetic rescue of endangered and extinct species.

About Wild Genomes

Wild Genomes is a funding program to provide state-of-the-art genomic tools to the people who need them most: field scientists, wildlife managers, and citizens working to protect their local biodiversity. The purpose of Wild Genomes is to accelerate the adoption of genomic sequencing for applied wildlife conservation. Our goal is to ensure that foundational materials, such as high-quality reference genomes and frozen cell lines, are made available for species restoration efforts. Learn more about the Wild Genomes program.

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