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Mark Butler, an Old Dominion University biologist, is among a select group of researchers who have been tapped for a research program sponsored by the World Bank Global Environment Fund to help improve coral reef sustainability and management.

Butler is applying his experience with Caribbean lobsters, which live on and around coral reefs, to the Coral Reef Targeted Research and Capacity Building program. He and colleagues at the University of Miami are examining the connections among lobster populations throughout the Caribbean based on larval lobster biology and oceanographic modeling.

Several working groups composed of researchers from around the world are involved in the project. Butler is part of the Connectivity Working Group, which is studying the interconnection of marine populations through larval dispersal. "At present there is very little information on levels of connectivity in coral reef regions, and management in Marine Protected Areas depends too much on good luck and 'guesstimates,'" states a program brochure. Details of the program can be found at: www.gefcoral.org.

Coral reefs, the largest living structures on earth and the richest repositories of marine biodiversity, are being threatened worldwide by economic development and climate change.

Butler, professor of biological sciences at ODU, received international attention last year for research he reported in the journal Nature about quarantine habits of Caribbean spiny lobsters. His research showed that healthy lobsters can detect-even before symptoms are apparent-another lobster that has contracted an infectious disease and avoid the infected lobster.

This article was posted on: November 8, 2007

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