ASSIST: a smart-decision framework for coral restoration

Project title: A smart-decision framework for coral restoration (ASSIST) – harnessing resilience for restoration
Project leads: Affendi Yang Amri and Sebastian Szereday
Nations involved: Malaysia, USA, Germany
Supporting institutions: Malaysian Society of Marine Sciences, Coralku, University Malaya, Triton Society, University of Konstanz
Total budget: $507,400
Duration: 36 months

Currently, corals bred for nurseries are simply collected from the seafloor. Ideally, scientists would benefit from prior knowledge of the corals’ climate resilience, because highly thermo-tolerant corals would be best suited for reef restoration, in a warming ocean. The project we are supporting will work to develop a system they have built called ASSIST. This is a data-driven system that will help identify the best corals to transplant and grow in nurseries for later reef restoration initiatives. The system will do this by specifically pre-screening corals to determine which represent the most resilient source material for restoration, much in the same way, in fact, that a surgeon would only opt to transplant a healthy organ (versus one that was merely readily available). The results will be open- source, as the major aim of this project is to empower other coral restoration groups with this “smart selection” framework.