Inspiring the Allen Coral Atlas team to map the world

July 2, 2019Emma Kennedy, University of Queensland

With technical challenges to overcome, international partner meetings in awkward time zones and long hours hunched over desks staring at screens, for our Atlas scientists sometimes mapping the world’s reefs can seem like an overwhelming task.

Recently, the team has been motivated and inspired by the support of some exceptional young people around the world.

Eleven-year-old Nina Carstens from American International School of Bucharest in Romania got in touch with the Allen Coral Atlas team after catching a TV news pieceshowcasing the coral reef mapping project. Nina, along with her teacher Miss Moss, even joined us by video-link on Heron Island to interview project scientist Dr. Emma Kennedy about the progress of the Atlas on behalf of the grade 5 class 5KM. With lots of great questions and helpful feedback for the team, it was a lot of fun to meet Nina and Miss Moss.

Grace Zhang's sculpture. "While making this sculpture, I learned that once corals die from prolonged bleaching, turf algae will grow over the dead skeletons to form its dark muddy color. I used moss to portray this algae and brown spray paint to depict the loss of vibrancy.”

Meanwhile, Grace Zhang, an 11th grade student at Mercer Island High School near Seattle, Washington, shared with us biotech class project where she chose to highlight the plight of reefs to her classmates. With a little guidance from the UQ field scientists, who have experience surveying damaged reefs, Grace, who is a synchronised swimmer and passionate about the ocean, designed and built two huge sculptures out of scrap materials she found, to show her class a bright healthy reef and a post-bleaching degraded reef.

“Growing up in the Seattle-area and not having constant access to an ocean filled with coral reefs has only intensified the value of coral reefs I hold since I rarely get to see the breathtaking sights” Grace explained. “Art has the ability to impact our emotions and change the way people think. In making this sculpture I hope I can spark a realization of the need to address climate change and urge others to advocate for protecting our changing seas”

Finally, UC Davis undergraduate students Neha Madugala and CJ Paghasian, inspired by the project, last week created a fun and colourful video report to inform the public about ocean acidification, coral bleaching, and the efforts of the Allen Coral Atlas project – impressive work Neha and CJ!

CJ reached out to the Atlas team. “We are very inspired by the work you and your team are doing to understand the problems coral reefs are facing. We created this video to inform people about ocean acidification, coral bleaching, and the efforts of the Allen Coral Atlas project.”

We would like to say a very big THANK YOU to Nina, Grace, Neha and CJ for reaching out with messages of support, and for finding creative and positive ways to promote the importance of coral reefs. It is you that you inspire us everyday, and the fact that you care as much about our beautiful reefs as we do is definitely keeping us motivated!

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