The Hidden Treasures Of A Coral Reef

The Hidden Treasures Of A Coral Reef

A mesmerizing hotspot of marine diversity, coral reefs transcend beauty. What is it about these elusive underwater habitats that makes them so unique? More importantly, what can society do to conserve coral reefs?


You're about to take the plunge of a lifetime. As you break the crystal clear surface of the Caribbean Sea, you immediately notice the wealth of colors beneath you. As you swim closer and closer, a vibrantly orange, white-striped creature glides by. You are transfixed by its effortless allure. Your eyes follow the Clownfish's movements as it wades towards a bundle of tube-like protrusions flowing in all directions. The Clownfish slips into the Sea Anemone with ease. Out of nowhere, a school of electric blue fish interrupts your concentration as they wiggle past you. The Caribbean Queen Angelfish. These fish prefer the warmer waters of the Western Atlantic Ocean. The Caribbean Sea is the perfect habitat, maintaining just the right temperature. Queen Angelfish diet on sponges, but also enjoy tunicates, algae and plankton. Some even settle for jellyfish. As your eyes survey the reef, they latch onto a colony of spiny, globular shapes, grouped together on the sea floor. Although they appear docile, Sea Urchins are quite active. These animals, belonging to the Echinoderm family, use their transparent "tube feet" to maneuver. Urchins are a favorite prey to predators such as crabs, sea otters, and eels. As a defense mechanism, Sea Urchins use their sharp spines to their advantage, some even being poisonous in select species.

As you stop to appreciate the wealth of diversity that surrounds, you can't help but wonder what support's it all...

The strikingly colorful appearance of corals in a reef is not actually the coral itself; it is the color of an algae, known as Zooxanthellae. This algae provides key nutrients to the coral. In return, the algae is provided protection and an environment to live in.

Unfortunately, with rising ocean temperatures due to global climate change, Zooxanthellae algae become stressed and leave their corals to venture off to a new habitat. Without the mutualistic relationship with the algae, the corals go from their vibrant coloration to a pale, white. As a result, the corals become more susceptible to disease and eventually might die off. This phenomenon is called "coral bleaching". In 2005, from the northern Antilles to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the Caribbean suffered a massive bleaching event. It lost half of it's reefs in one year (NOAA). One can't help but wonder, is there anything we can do to reverse what is happening to coral reefs? One way to start is by becoming informed on possible harmful actions on our oceans.

Anything from safe boating practices to recycling can make an impact. Of course, the issue of coral reef conservation is larger than a single person's actions. International marine policy will be a major driver in the future of corals. That said, being informed on the very real impacts of global climate change is a significant way to make these essential changes.

Your diving trip is coming to its conclusion. As your head breaks the surface of the Caribbean waters, you smile to yourself, as you reflect on your adventure. The shy gaze of the Clownfish, the sly movements of the Angelfish, the eccentric-looking Urchins. These are all treasures that are worth protecting.

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11 Ways to Save the Great Barrier Reef

The reef is alive. So what do we do now?

We've all seen the tweets. "The Great Barrier Reef is dead!" "Humans killed a 25 million-year-old reef, I hate humans." "We're so evil, how could we do this to the Earth?" Twitter and Facebook have exploded with comments not unlike these. What people don't realize is that the reef is still alive, but in deep trouble. It is now more important than ever for people to take initiative and take steps towards saving this important reef ecosystem. Here's how you can help.

1. CARE: Don't just assume other people will help!

Don't let yourself fall victim to the bystander effect. It is up to each and every individual to save the Great Barrier Reef, along with the rest of the world's coral reefs.

2. Conserve water to reduce runoff.

You may not live nearby the ocean, but dangerous chemicals can still find their way there through lakes, rivers, and streams. By conserving water, you will reduce the risk of runoff and therefore reduce negative effects on coral reefs.

3. Dispose of trash properly.

Disposing of trash properly will decrease the risk of it reaching the ocean where it can harm marine wildlife and throw off the natural pH levels of the ocean.

4. Carpool to reduce CO2 emissions.

CO2 emissions are the leading cause of climate change's quickening rate. By carpooling, CO2 emissions are decreased, slowing the rate of global warming. Slowing global warming will effectively reduce coral bleaching (the phenomenon that currently ails more than 90% of the Great Barrier Reef).

5. Only buy appliances with the Energy Star label to reduce Global Warming's effects.

Appliances with the Energy Star label are better for the environment.

6. Reduce the use of air conditioning and heating units.

By cutting down on the use of air conditioners and heating units, you are reducing HFCs. This will slow the rate of climate change.

7. Purchase LED light bulbs to slow climate change.

LEDs use up to 80% less energy than regular light bulbs. Conserving energy is an important step in slowing climate change.

8. Support the Clean Power Plan.

This is a link to tell your government to support the Clean Power plan. Supporting this plan may convince government officials to take more steps towards protecting the environment. There are also websites similar to this one that petition government officials to take action.

9. Donate.

This is a link to donate to a foundation that will put money towards saving the Great Barrier Reef. Endangered Species International is a legitimate organization that uses the donations they receive wisely. Imagine the possibilities is everyone gave just a couple dollars!

10. Tweet about it. Post about it. Snap about it.

Spread the word about the Great Barrier Reef's demise. Get people to care. Make sure everyone remembers that coral reefs are still here, and they are in desperate need of our help.

11. Don't spread the idea that the reef is a hopeless case!

Above all, do not believe this is a hopeless case. Coral reefs can still be saved. Keep the hope!

The Great Barrier Reef is not dead yet. We still have time. Work on making your own contributions to save the coral reefs. It would be a shame to believe the reef is dead, realize it is still alive, and then do nothing. Do something. Make an effort to change the course of our planet. Do not let the Great Barrier Reef go without putting up a fight.

Cover Image Credit: Desmog

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We Need To Get Over Our Fear Of Science Before It Kills Us

Lives are lost when we fear instead of think.


Anti-vaxxers. Climate deniers.

They are all the butt of internet jokes and memes. They are the focus of (too) many news stories and TV reports.

And their ignorance is going to kill people.

Yes, I said it. People who outright deny the scientifically-proven, data-measured reality that is climate change are either influencing the decisions of politicians or are themselves politicians working to hinder any policy that addresses the global crisis.

From not transitioning to clean energy to removing the United States from international accords and everything in between, climate deniers are setting America further down a path that will only exacerbate our climate problems and lead to a very different planet for future generations.

The refusal of vaccinations is already wreaking havoc across America. Twelve states currently face a measles outbreak. An unvaccinated boy nearly died of tetanus in Oregon.

Disease outbreaks, especially outbreaks of illnesses thought to be eradicated in the U.S., are more common now than they have been in decades.

It is the 21st century and one of the most developed and wealthiest countries in the world is facing diseases it worked tirelessly to never deal with again.


And why is it still considered "okay" to deny climate science?

Because we are afraid. We are especially afraid of things we do not understand.

For many people, science is one of those things we don't understand.

People without a background in science might look at climate reports and not understand a single thing other than the fact that the world is seemingly going to end. Or maybe the only thing they can take away from wordy, technical reports is that we need to completely change every facet of society in order to avoid something 50 years away.

If there is one thing people fear as much as they fear what they do not know, it is change. The future also tends to scare people a lot.

The refusal to vaccinate children also stems partially out of a fear of science. When one report debuts about how vaccines cause autism, the public panics. Why?

Because many people don't understand how vaccines truly work, and we fear what we do not understand.

Now that fear has embedded itself within the minds of too many people, it is hard to explain how vaccines work, and how beneficial they are to society.

Which means our fight to protect the country from previously-gone diseases is really just beginning.

It also means our fight to save the planet from destruction isn't going anyway any time soon, either.

So, this also all means science education needs to exist before college. It isn't enough to have members of society trained as engineers or chemists or environmental scientists or doctors.

It is possible to teach climate science and the basics of how vaccines work, among many other scientific inquiries, in K-12 education. We should learn about our planet and our health from the time we learn about our times tables and our history.

The only defense against ignorance is education.

The only way to combat the societal fear surrounding science is to create a society that is educated enough to not fear the science in the first place.

We need to kill this fear before the fear kills us.


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