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Coral Ecosystems

Coral Bleaching 101
web seminar player window The second of two Web Seminars on NOAA's Coral Ecosystems was held on Wednesday, June 7, 2006, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenter was Dr. Mark Eakin, Coordinator of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch program. Dr. Eakin's presentation focused on coral bleaching. Among the participants were teachers who had attended the face-to-face symposium at the NSTA National Conference in Science Education in Anaheim, CA.

The session started with a general overview of the NSTA Web Seminar tools and how they can be used to facilitate interaction between the participants and the presenters. Forty-six participants were present in addition to the presenter and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. One teacher joined the program from Canada.

Dr. Eakin started the presentation talking about coral reefs and their general characteristics - what are they, their biology, and what they eat. Then he proceeded to talk about zooxanthellae, algae that live in the coral polyp's surface layer that share a symbiotic relationship with the corals. While the algae get nutrients and a safe place to grow from the corals, the corals get oxygen, help with waste removal and most of their food from the algae. Eakin explained that coral bleaching occurs when the coral is stress and expels all its zooxanthellae. High water temperature is the number one cause for stress in corals. Though coral bleaching can kill corals, there are times when the corals recover from bleaching.

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Dr. Eakin also talked about the effects of hurricanes on corals as it relates to coral bleaching. Hurricanes form when the sea surface temperatures are high. When a hurricane moves from one place to another over the ocean it lowers the ocean temperature, hence hurricanes can be a mixed blessing when it comes to corals. Wave action caused by hurricanes can also damage corals. Eakin ended the presentation talking about what teachers and students can do to help coral reefs and sharing two url's (see list of web sites below) that give ideas for action. During the presentation, Kelly Drinnen, also from NOAA, answered questions via the chat. Throughout the presentation there were several opportunities for the participants to interact with each other and with the presenter by answering a poll question, chatting, stamping, and marking on the slides.

Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:

  • "This was my favorite web seminar thus far. Thank you so much, Mark for your incredible depth of knowledge and your ability to make the complex understandable."
  • "We live upriver from the Gulf. It is so important for every one to realize that they can help improve the environment. I did not know very much about coral bleaching and this will help me convey the importance of being environmentally aware!!!"
  • "This was my first Web Seminar experience so I found it to be a learning experience not only in terms of the content, but also the format. I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the presenter and other participants. Learned about bleaching - causes."
  • "I learned A TON...I didn't even know what coral bleaching was before this seminar."

Thanks to the participants and Dr. Eakin for the learning opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!

Web Seminar II Resources


See a recorded version of the Web Seminar.


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Underwritten in part by: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration