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The microbiologist: Tweaking genes to help corals survive climate change

Kim Ritchie fell into coral research as an undergraduate, got a Ph.D. in genetics and was doing post-doctoral research in Panama when she lost her funding. With the ideal training for biotech, however, she slipped right into a startup. But when the company went bankrupt, she jumped back into research.

Today she manages the microbiology program at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., a nonprofit research center dedicated to studying marine and estuarine ecosystems. Ritchie is taking a novel approach to reviving stressed coral reefs, looking at the role bacteria can play in coral health. She is tinkering with gene therapy – primarily DNA swapping – to restore coral reefs by fostering beneficial bacterial growth.

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