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College of Charleston Professor Works to Save Coral Reefs

Coral polyps on Molasses Reef, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Brent Deuel [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr
Coral polyps on Molasses Reef, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

People picture coral reefs as bursting with color and teeming with a variety of undersea life, which many are. But their number is shrinking, says College of Charleston biologist Phil Dustan, because they are hyper-sensitive to temperature changes, and climate change is warming the ocean to intolerable levels for many reefs. In his 40-plus years of studying reefs, Dustan said, the Florida Keys, for example, have probably lost 90 to 95 percent of their living coral reefs.

Dustan was featured in the recent Netflix documentary film "Chasing Coral," which documents the plight of the world’s dying and irreplaceable reefs, which feed about 10 percent of the world’s people, he said. The film’s director, Jeff Orlowski, says even many scuba divers aren’t aware of the severity of the problem, because when they go diving on vacation, they are brought to the reefs that are still unaffected and beautiful, and they don’t see the devastation that has been wrought on about half the world’s reefs. Dustan says the remaining reefs can be preserved, but only if people have the will to do it.

Related Programing:
Sea Change

  • ETV World on Sunday, 4/22/18 at 3 p.m.
  • ETVHD on Sunday, 4/22/18 at 4 p.m.
  • South Carolina Channel on Monday, 4/23/18 at 8 p.m. 

This SCETV special presents diverse perspectives on the impact of sea level rise on the Eastern Seaboard, as experienced in coastal South Carolina and Georgia.

Tut Underwood is producer of South Carolina Focus, a weekly news feature. A native of Alabama, Tut graduated from Auburn University with a BA in Speech Communication. He worked in radio in his hometown before moving to Columbia where he received a Master of Mass Communications degree from the University of South Carolina, and worked for local radio while pursuing his degree. He also worked in television. He was employed as a public information specialist for USC, and became Director of Public Information and Marketing for the South Carolina State Museum. His hobbies include reading, listening to music in a variety of styles and collecting movies and old time radio programs.