Research in Action: 100 Island Challenge

Is there hope for coral reefs?

Scripps Oceanography scientists are working to find out. 

The newest exhibit in the Hall of Fishes is different from anything in the history of Birch Aquarium. More than a display, it is also a working laboratory for Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists. Research in Action: 100 Island Challenge serves as an experimental reef that allows Scripps Oceanography scientists to develop coral research techniques and test equipment and ideas before traveling to remote locations. Guests can meet scientists and see prototype digital cameras and underwater robotics before they are deployed in the field. 

The exhibit is designed to assist Scripps Oceanography scientists as they take on a gargantuan task: collecting coral reef data from 100 tropical islands around the world. This 100 Island Challenge aims to gain a better understanding of how reefs are adapting to our rapidly changing planet and decipher what the future holds for these important habitats. While a majority of reefs have been significantly impacted by climate change, ocean acidification, and human activities, others seem to be rebounding, and a few are even thriving. 

The big question scientists need to answer is “why?” Information gleaned from the 100 Island Challenge will inform conservation efforts to protect reefs globally. 

The Research in Action exhibit features an Indo-Pacific coral reef habitat, and was designed with sustainability in mind. Artificial and nursery-grown corals are prominent. Birch Aquarium has raised coral in captivity for more than 20 years through the Coral Propagation Program and many of these home-grown corals are on display. 

Keep an eye out on your next visit to spot Scripps Oceanography research equipment in prototype and testing phases. Follow Birch Aquarium on social media for updates on what is happening in the exhibit. You never know what you’ll find in Research In Action: 100 Island Challenge.  


This exhibit made possible thanks to an anonymous donor. To learn more about how you can support current and new exhibits, contact the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Development Office at

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