Scuba diving through the coral reefs is a popular item on most people’s bucket list. With the rapid decline in the coral reefs due to both man-made and natural phenomenon, it seemed like it would remain a dream forever. The coral reefs are presently in an endangered status with rapid degradation due to warmer aquatic temperature, bleaching and storms, which has resulted in the bio-diversity associated with coral reefs also going to the brink of extinction. Luckily the scientists intervened and have devised a way to bring back the dying aquatic fauna along with their home, the reefs.
3D printing is the idea being proposed by the researchers. This has been tested with prototypes in a fish tank with a cafeteria-style choice experiment. Behaviors of Damselfish and mustard hill coral larvae were studied in the presence of both natural and artificial coral reef models. The study showed that damselfish and coral larvae did not prefer the natural model over the artificial ones. They interacted equally with both natural as well as the 3D printed models.
The study was carried out by Danielle Dixson from University of Delaware and Emily Ruhl an alumnus of UD. They used a combination of filaments made from cornstarch and cornstarch mixed with stainless steel powder. The materials used are bio degradable which ensures that the artificial model will degrade with time when live coral starts growing on it.
Ruhl is presently a research biologist with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Engineer Research and Development Center in Mississippi and Dixson is an associate professor in UD's College of Earth, Ocean and Environment's School of Marine Science and Policy.
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