Coral reefs house roughly a quarter of all known marine species, making them some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. But as their environments have become less friendly from climate change in recent decades, corals are struggling to stay healthy and support the life that relies on them.

Now, thanks to an emerging technique called environmental DNA (eDNA), researchers at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History can support worldwide efforts to understand how corals and the communities that depend on them are responding to global ocean change. What they find could help scientists understand and anticipate the threats coral reefs face.

“This has opened up new ways of looking at questions that we haven’t been able to ask,” said Chris Meyer, a research zoologist and curator of invertebrates at the museum. “It can give us an incredibly rich understanding of the ocean and its response to change.”

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