Mydlarz studies the effects of stress on coral. She hopes students leave with a better understanding of the problem and learn something new about coral reefs, she said. Reefs are in tune with their environment and sensitive to changes, she said. When there is a change in the environment, the coral reefs either contract diseases or bleach, expelling the algae that lives with them and turning white, Mydlarz said. She knows there is a connection between climate change and coral reefs, but is not sure what that connection is yet. Like humans, when coral is stressed, it gets sick, has decreased immunity http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/12/business/la-fi-mollusk-man-20100812 and dies, Mydlarz said. Coral attracts animals, and when it dies, the vibrant colors and sea life disappear, and protection, food and tourism are disrupted, Mydlarz said. Environmental science senior Nguyen Cao said she enjoyed the presentation and wasnt aware of the disease and the effects of bleaching. This is a topic of interest to her, Cao said.
One of the major threats to corals in the Caribbean is bleaching, a process that leaches life and color from the colonial organisms. Bleaching occurs when corals lose tiny, photosynthetic organisms that live inside their cells. These organisms, called zooxanthellae, are responsible for the corals’ varying color. External stresses, such as massive algal blooms, warming water temperatures, overfishing and rising sea levels, can trigger zooxanthellae to abandon their corals, which kills them. At right, a diver inspects a massive, bleached fire coral that should be a bright orange. View all Galapagos Islands, Ecuador Resembling a murmuration of starlings, these schools of rabbitfish and angelfish swirl and collide in warm, equatorial waters. These two species are harmless, but stonefish (pictured, right) most definitely are not. First of all, yes there are fish in that photo. We count three (we think) bright, multi-colored lumps snuggled into the comparatively lackluster coral. Secondly, stonefish stings can be fatal to humans. Masters of disguise, stonefish carry a powerful venom in the spines located along their dorsal fins.