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These Scientists Are Rebuilding Singapore’s Coral Reefs – With Lego




In a makeshift saltwater nursery located on an offshore Singapore island, a vital scientific experiment is taking place involving corals and sea invertebrates – and Lego bricks.


“We needed to create flat and stable surfaces for the animals to rest on,” explained Neo Mei Lin, a leading marine biologist and senior research fellow from the National University of Singapore’s Tropical Marine Science Institute. “Detachable Lego bricks proved very useful in helping us to hold corals and giant clams in place.”

This quirky and ingenious approach has benefited Neo and her colleague Jani Tanzil, a fellow marine scientist at the institute. Together they are spearheading an ambitious reef rejuvenation project to revitalize and restore Singapore’s coral populations, wrecked and damaged by decades of major land reclamation, coastal development, and sea port activity.


“Land development harshly affects the sea,” Tanzil said. “As marine scientists, we have definitely seen the effects of that on our coastlines, mangroves and seagrass.


Their approach echoes others in the region who have turned to unconventional means to facilitate coral reef reproduction. In Hong Kong, marine biologists turned to 3D printing as a means of repopulating dead and damaged reefs.Working with government agencies like the National Parks Board (NParks), Neo and Tanzil hope that their ambitious project will help increase the resilience of local coral populations and gradually expand reef surface area.


“Climate change is moving faster than we can imagine but our coral reefs have proven to be much more resilient than we thought, having survived in marginal and highly urbanized environments,” Neo said.


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