Celebrate All Scientists: Ruth Gates, PhD

Celebrate All Scientists

June is Pride Month, and today LSC celebrates LGBTQ scientist Dr. Ruth Gates!

Ruth Gates, PhD, dedicated her life to saving coral reefs. She was the director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. Her research focused on developing a coral that could be more resilient to the increasing heat and acidity of our oceans. She studied coral that survived coral bleaching events in order to breed a heat-resistant strand. Coral bleaching events are caused by warmer ocean water resulting from the ocean absorbing higher levels of greenhouse gases.

Dr. Gates focused on what can be done locally while nations work globally to reduce climate change. She is featured in Chasing Coral, an award-winning documentary from Netflix, as well as The Fate of Coral, a series from the University of Hawaii Foundation available on YouTube, among many public engagement projects. Her lab research continues on as The Coal Resilience Lab - The Legacy of Ruth Gates at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology in Kane’ohe.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) set up the Ruth Gates Coral Restoration Innovation Grant, with $500,000 of available funding in 2022, to restore resilient coral ecosystems. One of her students, Shayle Matsuda, recalls the first time he heard Dr. Gates speak publicly about coral.

“It felt like she was taking everyone by the hand and talking only to them. It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had, and it convinced me that we really can change the narrative around climate change,” says Matsuda. “It’s not just going to be research that saves reefs. It’s also about reaching people, and moving them out of the paralysis that comes from our situation.”

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