Mar 25, 2016

The coral reefs that almost made scientists cry (for joy)

Hawaii
American Samoa
USA
by
Sarah Kaplan
,
Washington Post
A pristine coral reef near the remote Millennium Atoll in the central Pacific. Photo: Jennifer Smith
A pristine coral reef near the remote Millennium Atoll in the central Pacific. Photo: Jennifer Smith

These are not fun times to be a coral reef researcher.

Like so much of environmental science, the field can be a dismal one, often devoted to documenting decline. There are mass die-offs, worldwide bleaching events, plagues of sea stars, the ominous “warm blob,” the“godzilla” El Nino and devastating oil slicks. Not to mention the ever-looming threat of climate change.

“In the coral reef world, the situation can seem dire a lot of the time,” Julia Baum, a marine biologist at the University of Victoria, told The Washington Post last year.

Which is why the discovery that some pristine reefs still exist near the uninhabited islands in the Pacific brought ecologist Jennifer Smith so much joy