EarthLabs > Corals > Lab 1: Coral Reefs, the Human View

Lab 1: Coral Reefs, the Human View

Introduction

Coral reef scuba diverImage courtesy of NOAA

Coral reefs are unique and beautiful ecosystems that serve as nursery, farm, and home to untold numbers of marine species. The incredible biodiversity supported by healthy coral reefs has earned them the nickname "rainforests of the sea."

Coral reefs provide a wealth of benefits to humans. In certain parts of the world, coastal residents rely on coral reef fisheries for a significant portion of their protein intake. Tropical coral reefs and islands help make tourism the world's largest industry by attracting millions of visitors each year. Coral reefs have also contributed to major pharmaceutical breakthroughs. For example, the drug AZT, used for the treatment of HIV infections, is based on chemicals found in Caribbean reef sponges. Today, the majority of cancer drug research is focused on tapping resources from marine organisms, many of which inhabit coral reefs.

In the first part of this lab, you will experience the human view of coral reefs through the eyes of ocean explorers and underwater filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall, as you watch the IMAX film Coral Reef Adventure. In the second part of the lab, you will examine coral samples provided by your teacher and classmates.

After completing this investigation, you should be able to:



Keeping Track of What You Learn

Throughout these labs, you will find two kinds of questions. Your teacher will let you know which answers you should record and turn in.

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