Dive down to coral reefs to learn about their struggles and successes in a changing ocean.

The comic

Read a version of the comic formatted for phones here. Episodes are released weekly.

Coral reef struggles

An animation of a boat running aground on a reef, scattering the fish and destroying the coral.

Destructive impacts

Corals take decades to grow, but only a few seconds to destroy. When boats run aground or put their anchors down on reefs, it can tear up old, established ecosystems.

A cartoon of an octopus handing a bleached coral a water bottle. The octopus says "Here's it's imported."


Corals thrive in clean, clear water. Pollution from industries, fossil fuels, chemicals, landscaping and agriculture, and human waste can lower the water quality and harm corals.

An animation of red sun rays reflecting off the ocean and rebounding down from the atmosphere, heating up the air.

Climate change

Greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are warming up the planet, and ocean heatwaves put stress on the coral.

Oceans are also acidifying, which is hard on coral skeletons. You can listen to the Go Forth and Science Podcast episode on ocean acidification and corals to learn more.

An animation of a colorful coral polyp shooting out its algae and turning white.


Coral bleaching is also a product of climate change and pollution. When the coral gets stressed, it pushes out the colorful algae that lives inside of it. This algae provides food for the coral while the coral provides protection for the algae. Without it, the coral is still alive but cannot survive for long, and must get the algae back in order to live.

A cartoon of a fisherman standing on the back of a small boat and throwing a black grouper fish back into the ocean. the fish says "see you later, dude."


Commercial fishing has led to lower numbers of reef fish in these ecosystems. Many of those fish help clean coral and keep the reefs in balance.

Coral reef successes

An animation of coral polyps showing their bright blue and green colors under UV light, and then turning back to their usual orange and brown in natural light.


Institutions like Mote and University of Miami’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Science are asking important questions like what makes corals resistant to disease, and how to maintain diversity of these reefs when so many species are dying. They’re looking at corals from the big picture of the reef, all the way down to the tiny specifics of a coral’s microbiome.

This animation shows young coral under natural and blue light. The bright colors are the coral’s version of sunscreen.

A cartoon of coral pieces hanging off of piping set up like a tree. A diver is in the background.


Several years ago, it was discovered that coral grows faster if you break it up into pieces, meaning you can take one small piece of coral and propagate much more. Organizations like Coral Restoration Foundation are taking this discovery and using it to regrow coral reefs. Underwater nurseries raise the smaller bits of coral until they are ready to be replanted on reefs.

An animation of a piece of coral planted on a reef. The animation zooms in on the coral.


Similar to how we can reforest a field, folks are replanting coral onto reefs. By anchoring bits of coral onto the rock of an empty reef, those pieces then grow up and together to form a coral reef again. Different groups are researching the best anchoring methods, like marine epoxies and cement, to ensure that the coral can withstand storm waves until it anchors itself to the rock.

A cartoon of two coral larvae swimming around. One says "race you to the best spot!" and the other says "wait for me!"


Outplanted staghorn and elkhorn corals have spawned in the wild, showing that these grown and planted corals can be used to naturally restore reefs.

What you can do to help

A cartoon of a black grouper fish swims next to a dead brain coral with algae growing over it.

Sustainable seafood

You can make sure the seafood you eat comes from a sustainable population. This means there are enough individuals that the population can keep going, even when some is taken away. We also need to make sure the seafood is caught in a way that doesn’t harm the reef and its other inhabitants.

You can look up sustainable fish to eat, and which species to avoid, here.

A cartoon of a boat tied to a mooring buoy in tropical seas.

Reef safe boating

Instead of anchoring, use already-placed mooring buoys to secure your boat. This ensures that boaters aren’t dragging their anchors across reefs and damaging the coral. If you are boating in the Florida Keys, you can learn more about their mooring system and learn where the buoys are here.

A cartoon of a house with a large green lawn and a brownish pond transitions to the same cartoon but now with trees and bushes and plants surrounding it.

Healthy lawn care

Do you have a large green lawn that drains into a ditch on the side of the road? You can convert that into an oasis instead! Plant native grass, groundcover, shrubs, and flowers instead of that high-maintenance green lawn (which is most likely an invasive species), and you’ll help reduce the amount of pollution that is running off into our water as well as help filter out some of the toxins.

A cartoon of sunscreen bottles on a grocery store shelf. The center one has a drawing of coral and a green check mark.

Reef safe sunscreen

There is still some debate about what makes a sunscreen “reef safe” since there are no governing requirements for that label. But it is generally accepted that oxybenzone and octinoxate are chemicals to avoid. And never discount the effectiveness of a large hat and a sun shirt! Nothing beats sunburn avoidance like shade.


A lot of folks helped me with this project, from funding dives to teaching me about corals. You can check out some of the organizations below.