Climate Change and Coral Reefs

January 31st, 2011

For the past several years, news of the decline of coral species and coral reef ecosystems has increased dramatically. Ostensibly, we are hearing more about corals as a direct result of the work scientists are doing to help us learn more and more about the tight inter-relationship between the Earth’s climate and the oceans.

Last year, I was involved in a project with The Video Project, Plankton Productions, Curriculum Corporation, The Learning Federation, and Specialty Studios to create a video series for students on the subject of climate change and coral reefs. The project was based on a presentation given by Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a globally recognized marine biologist, at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. I worked as the host of the videos, and as Creative Adviser, working closely with the Instructional Design consultant, Nancy Wolfberg, on the writing, editing, and animations.

The primary goal of the project was to create a series of short videos that science teachers could use as supplements to help familiarize students with the basic science of both coral reefs and climate change. Secondarily, but even more importantly, we wanted our videos to instill an understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry that students would take with them from the classroom to the real world. In doing so, we hoped to counteract the very depressing scientific statistics presented across the videos with a feeling of empowerment… we wanted to leave the students with the impression that they are capable and don’t have to wait for adults in order to substantially affect their environments.

Here is a little taste of our introductory video:

I’m proud to say that I think we achieved our goals. The DVD that is currently available through The Video Project is a valuable teaching tool:

“The DVD includes:

Four 8-minute video modules hosted by Dr. Kiki Sanford.
The modules feature Dr. Sanford and excerpts from a presentation by Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg:

  • Introduction to Climate Change and Coral Reefs
  • Coral Bleaching
  • Ocean Acidification
  • The Future of Coral Reefs.

The full 28-minute presentation by Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg.
Details his scientific findings about the impact of climate change on coral reefs, with charts, graphs and other visuals.

A Detailed Teacher’s Guide.
Featuring an innovative group discussion format (Climate Café), templates for team-based
investigations and presentations, a glossary, Science magazine reprints, and a comprehensive
list of other resources and links (on the DVD-ROM section).

Visual Resources for Student Presentations.
Video clips, animations and other resources (on the DVD-ROM section).

All video segments are illustrated with footage from renowned underwater filmmaker David Hannan.”

I think the Teacher’s Guide is brilliant. It takes engagement with the material to a whole new level in and outside of the classroom. Additionally, source materials and all of the animations are available for the students to use in their own research and presentations, giving them the opportunity to put their own spin on what they learn.

So, if you are a science teacher (or home school your kids!), or know someone who might be interested in this teaching resource to supplement their teaching of climate change and coral reefs, please pass this information along!

If you are a teacher or student in Australia or New Zealand, where I believe these videos are available through the Curriculum Corporation, please let me know what you think of the video project. I’d love your feedback.

Also, Specialty Studios and The Video Project will have a booth at the 2011 National Conference of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) in San Francisco. I hope to be able to make an appearance at the event, and be able to talk with teachers in person about our labor of love. However, it’s rather close to the due date of my first child, so I will be sure to keep people apprised of developments.

I hope people enjoy and get much use out of our creation. It took the devotion and hard work of many talented individuals to see it to completion.

5 Responses to “Climate Change and Coral Reefs”

  1. Twitter Trackbacks for Climate Change and Coral Reefs at The Bird’s Brain [] on on February 1, 2011 7:23 am

    […] Climate Change and Coral Reefs at The Bird’s Brain – view page – cached The world according to a hula hooping, TKD black-belt wearing, radio show producing physiologist with aspirations to science journalism * Kirsten Sanford * Media Resume * Science Resume * The Science Word […]

  2. Robert Bigelow on February 1, 2011 10:19 am

    I’ve a relation who did a study of the effect of cattle raising in Florida, upon the reef systems of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

    Nitrates from cattle waste leach into the water table eventually winding up in the ocean current, which carries them through the reef system.

    The nitrates cause large blooms, which consume a lot of oxygen present in the sea water. That oxygen is necessary to sustain life – even underwater.

    If the blooms consume too much oxygen, then coral polyps cannot spawn to continue the growth and rebuilding of the coral reef system.

    Once past the point of no return, the coral reef system will die away.

  3. Douglas Bevans on February 4, 2011 1:51 pm

    In addition to being a twis minion, I am the owner and director of an Canadian student tour operation called Nomad Travel. We are a travel company with a strong focus on education. This year we are introducing an environmental service project to our syllabus. I am looking for tools to assist. How would I go about obtaining the above video and teaching information?

  4. Kirsten Sanford on February 4, 2011 2:09 pm

    Douglas, you should be able to order it directly from The Video Project at this website:

    I hope it’s able to supplement your tour operations!

  5. Michael Langdon on October 17, 2011 2:11 pm

    You say the world is heating up that is right, I don’t dispute that. The time frame that you clam is what I have a few words to say obout. The world is 4.6 billion years old and in that time frame the earth is 12-14 degrees warmer. In fact the earth has been without ice on the caps 6 to 7 times. Another thing is that more people die of cold exposure than heat exposure. We are still coming out of a ice age.

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