About the Project

NGS/Waitt grantee Dr. David Gruber and his team aim to explore the deep coral reefs in the Northern Red Sea off Eilat, Israel, and in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Haifa. Expedition members include marine biologists, medical scientists, and geologists who will explore depths up to 328 feet (100 meters) using technical re-breather tri-mix SCUBA technology. The team is in search of the elusive far-red fluorescent protein and have evidence that it may only exist at depth, at the bottom range of where photosynthesis can occur.

Fluorescent proteins are pivotal in contemporary biological and biomedical science, and their discovery was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Members of this expedition are credited with the discovery of 28 of the 120 available fluorescent proteins. A suitable far-red fluorescent protein would offer optical properties that could revolutionize disease research and illuminate the inner workings of the human brain. It has yet to be discovered.

Two expedition members—a leading figure in marine biology in Israel (Tchernov) and a neuroscientist at Yale University Medical School (Pieribone)—have discovered a fluorescent protein that can monitor activity of single neurons. They aim to better understand the biology and genetics of deep-water corals to aid in conservation efforts, and to discover new compounds from deep coral reefs (many areas where humans have never been) to assist biological research.

Meet the Explorer

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