[Coral-List] Time Magazine on coral bleaching

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Sat Sep 17 04:32:58 EDT 2016

     Journalists must constantly strive for the most surprising or shocking
story, to beat the competition and sell their product (scientists do this
as well).  So they tend to use dramatic language that isn't always totally
correct.  I spotted "the vibrant rainbow colors of thriving coral."  Anyone
who has looked at a reef from a distance, like at the surface, will have
noticed that reefs are usually dominated by corals that tend to be brown
(the color of zooxanthellae), a color that might be better described as
"drab" than "vibrant rainbow colors."  There are a scattering of
brilliantly colored corals, which are the ones that attract the most photos
and which most often get published.  We all succumb to that (i certainly
include myself), photographers and authors want to show the brilliant
colors, and so, since photos are very small samples of reef, we pick out
the most beautiful to publish and show others, and anyone might think the
reef was composed entirely of gorgeous, brilliant colors, when it is not.
Yet this conflicts with the goal of science to not be biased, and report
the reality and truth of what it is we are studying, not a biased sample as
though it was a good representative of what the reef is.
    Ironically, the text says that the bleached corals are "dying", but
later says that they recovered, and although they say that healthy corals
are vibrant rainbow colors, they show photos of bleached corals that they
say are dying but have more brilliant colors than healthy coral.
    They talk as though they were the first to find fluorescent colored
bleached corals, but they weren't, those have been known for some time, I
remember hearing about them during the first time the GBR bleached, and
have seen them a number of times and photographed them.
     But the purpose of the Time article is to convey to the public the
seriousness of the problem and use the dazzling imagery to capture people's
attention.  Given that this sort of story has come out so many times, they
are doing well if they can get some attention and people don't just go
"ho-hum, another coral bleaching event, we get those all the time, that's
normal."  I think the article does a good job of conveying to the public
the important message of this serious threat to coral reefs.
      Cheers,  Doug

On Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 3:22 PM, Baird, Andrew <andrew.baird at jcu.edu.au>

> Visually stunning yes, but what a bunch of amateurs?
> No one who has seen a bleaching event in the wild would describe it "as an
> endless stretch of white".
> Professor Andrew Baird
> ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
> James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811
> Mob: 0400289770
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces@
> coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Mark Eakin - NOAA Federal
> Sent: Friday, 16 September 2016 1:23 AM
> To: Coral Listserver <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Subject: [Coral-List] Time Magazine on coral bleaching
> A visually stunning spread just came out in Time magazine focused on the
> XL Catlin Seaview Survey documentation of the severe bleaching in New
> Caledonia earlier this year.
> http://time.com/coral/ <http://time.com/coral/>
> The 360° images work best on your smartphone or tablet.
> Cheers,
> Mark
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
> Coordinator, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
> National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Center for Satellite
> Applications and Research Satellite Oceanography & Climate Division
> e-mail: mark.eakin at noaa.gov
> url: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov
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Douglas Fenner
Contractor for NOAA NMFS, and consultant
"have regulator, will travel"
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

phone 1 684 622-7084

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