Lecture Wednesday on Kauai coral disease

LIHUE — The latest information about Kauai’s coral disease outbreak will be presented during a public lecture Wednesday in Princeville.

As part of her Ph.D research, University of Hawaii student Christina Runyon is looking into the distribution, prevalence and virulence of the cyanobacterial disease, as well as identifying the key pathogenic bacteria associated with it.

Her recent findings will be presented during a lecture from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Princeville Public Library.

Runyon was expected to lead Wednesday’s event; however, she returned to Oahu Thursday to be with her family in light of the approaching tropical weather from Hurricanes Iselle and Julio.

If she is not able to return to Kauai in time, Katie Nalesere, education specialist for the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Aquatic Resources, will lead the presentation.

This summer, Runyon has been resurveying reefs around Kauai and collecting data about the deadly disease.

“We think it’s really important that the information is given in a factual manner,” she said by phone from Oahu.

In May, the DLNR announced it would lead an investigation to identify research and treatment options. The Kauai Management Response Team, which includes partners from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, USGS and UH, is tasked with reviewing the latest data about the disease, identifying the next steps in research and considering management options.

The black band disease was first spotted at low levels on Kauai in 2004, then identified on the North Shore of Kauai in 2012 at 10 times background levels, according to DLNR. It continues to negatively affect coral reefs throughout North Kauai. The disease is affecting Montipora, or rice, corals, and gets its name from the black band lesion (or wound) that it forms on the coral. This lesion will quickly progress until the coral colony is completely dead.

As of April, more than 30 sites around the island had been surveyed. Wednesday’s lecture will serve as a general update about current and future plans to address the situation.

Runyon, graduate research assistant at UH’s Institute of Marine Biology, has taken part in disease event investigations in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu, in American Samoa and at Palmyra Atoll.

In addition to the lecture, Nalesere will lead a Create Your Own Coral Colony workshop from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 at the library. Participants will learn about the life of coral and the important role it plays in the reef ecosystem, and get to color, mold and create their own coral colonies out of clay. The workshop is designed for children.

The free events are co-sponsored by the Friends of the North Shore Library at Princeville and the National Marine Sanctuaries Kauai Office.

Information: 826-4310

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