​​​​Abu Dhabi, UAE: The Mubadala Arabian Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences (ACCESS) at NYU Abu Dhabi today announced that it received a grant from Dalio Philanthropies to support cutting-edge climate research, including ways to increase coral resilience in a warming ocean.

The $1 million USD grant will include two years of support for a project led by NYUAD associate professor of biology Dr. John Burt that will explore the selection and crossbreeding of heat-resistant corals in the Arabian Gulf with heat-sensitive corals found elsewhere to produce climate-resistant corals that can better withstand climate change.

As waters warm and ocean chemistry changes due to increased CO2 levels, coral around the world is experiencing more frequent bleaching and loss. Corals in the Arabian Gulf, however, have proven able to survive at significantly higher temperatures. In initial experiments, Dr. Burt’s team found that crossbreeding UAE corals with Indian Ocean corals can lead to 84% higher heat tolerance in hybrid offspring.

In addition to supporting this project, the grant provides an anchor for future collaborations between global ocean exploration nonprofit OceanX, an operating program of Dalio Philanthropies, and NYUAD, particularly around ocean education and scientific research. The partnership kicked off this month with an OceanX-led research mission in the UAE with Dr. Burt and other scientists from the Mubadala ACCESS Center studying the region’s ecosystems, biodiversity, and megafauna. Together, scientists from OceanX and NYUAD will develop a comprehensive baseline understanding of UAE waters to better predict the impacts of climate change drivers globally.

OceanX and NYUAD are committed to exploring other opportunities for collaboration, including NYUAD student internships at OceanX, participation in OceanX's flagship educational program, Young Explorers; and other ocean education initiatives.

“OceanX is excited to collaborate with Dr. Burt and NYUAD on research in the UAE that will have far-reaching implications for coral restoration and understanding of climate effects,” said Mark Dalio, founder and co-CEO of OceanX. “At OceanX we believe educating the public about the ocean is necessary to ensure the future health and sustainability of our planet; it is impossible to protect what we do not know. Partnering with this world-class educational institution and its global student body will allow us to conduct critical ocean research, further innovative educational projects, and increase ocean literacy worldwide.”

The Mubadala ACCESS Center is a leading research group focused on the climate and the environment of the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf region. It brings scientific research on local and regional climate change and the environment up to speed with the rapid development of the societies and economies that live in the region.

“The research we have initiated in collaboration with Dalio Philanthropies is of immense significance, not only for the UAE and the regional biodiversity, but also for the world,” said Dr. John Burt. “This year, global sea temperatures hit record levels, which adds even more urgency to the discussions taking place during COP28 towards reductions in carbon emissions. We are presented with an amazing opportunity to help protect nature, our greatest ally, in all its diversity in order to combat the challenges of climate change. Preserving the richness of ocean biodiversity is an investment in the future of our planet and all life that depends on it.”

The grant announcement follows the formal signing of a memorandum of understanding between NYU Abu Dhabi, Dalio Philanthropies, and OceanX at the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, UAE, where OceanX hosted a Blue Zone Pavilion with IOC-UNESCO.

About NYU Abu Dhabi


NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective program with majors in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, arts, and humanities with a world center for advanced research. Its campus enables students to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world, and to advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from some 125 countries and speak over 100 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents. 

About Dalio Philanthropies

Founded by the Dalio family in 2003, Dalio Philanthropies focuses on creating equal opportunities in education, healthcare, and technology access, with strong commitments to fostering local and global community and exploring and protecting the Earth’s oceans. We operate three primary programs in the areas of education (Dalio Education), ocean exploration and protection (OceanX), and digital access (Endless Network). We also support organizations in a number of other focus areas to help catalyze positive change around the world. Since the inception of Dalio Philanthropies, the family has provided over $6 billion in support of its mission. To learn more about Dalio Philanthropies’ operating programs and key focus areas, visit www.daliophilanthropies.org.

About OceanX

OceanX is a mission to support scientists to explore the ocean and to bring it back to the world through captivating media. Uniting leading media, science, and philanthropy partners, OceanX utilizes next-gen technology, fearless science, compelling storytelling, and immersive experiences to educate, inspire, and connect the world with the ocean and build a global community deeply engaged with understanding, enjoying, and protecting our oceans. OceanX is an operating program of Dalio Philanthropies, which furthers the diverse philanthropic interests of Dalio family members. For more information, visit www.oceanx.org and follow OceanX on Facebook, Instagram, X, TikTok, and LinkedIn.