Coral Reefs

Three giant rocks—Tokia, Rebua, and Kamatoa—sit in the ocean south of Makin Island in the Republic of Kiribati.

How Indigenous Stories Helped Scientists Understand the Origin of Three Huge Boulders

Legends spurred researchers to form a theory about Makin Island's distinctively out-of-place rocks

A diver swims over a bleached section of the Great Barrier Reef near Heron Island.

The Planet Has Lost Half of Its Coral Reefs Since 1950

A new study finds dramatic declines in coral reef cover, biodiversity and fish abundance

Environmental scientist Alexandra Ordoñez Alvarez from the University of Queensland collects data in Far Northern Great Barrier Reef on Ashmore Bank.

Scientists Complete the First Map of the World's Coral Reefs

Nearly 100,000 square miles of the organism have been charted in high detail to create a tool for conservationists to help save them

Olive sea snakes are among the largest marine snake species and sometimes make contact with divers.

Venomous Sea Snakes That Charge Divers May Just Be Looking for Love

A new study suggests apparent attacks are actually fleeting cases of mistaken identity

The museum's sculptures promote coral growth and will eventually serve as homes for sea creatures.

Art Meets Science

You Can Now Explore an Underwater Sculpture Museum in the Mediterranean

Artist Jason deCaires Taylor placed 93 statues of people and plants in a submerged "forest" off the coast of Cyprus

From the surface, the havoc caused on a coral reef by a layer of low-oxygen water was barely evident.

Smithsonian Voices

Watch What Happens When a Coral Reef Can't Get Enough Oxygen

In September 2017, divers observed a massive "dead zone" rising to envelop Caribbean coral reefs in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Chris Meyer, a marine invertebrate zoologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, dives around French Polynesia with equipment used to track coral reef health.

Future of Conservation

Meet the Reef Expert Collecting Environmental Time Capsules

Collecting DNA in waters worldwide can help scientists figure out which places are the most important for conservation

A proposed government plan will move the A303 highway, pictured here in the distance behind Stonehenge's iconic structures, underground. But Unesco warned in a report Monday that the efforts might endanger the site's OVU, or outstanding universal value.

Unesco Weighs Changes to Stonehenge's Cultural Heritage Status

A new report also cited Venice and the Great Barrier Reef as sites that might be placed on the World Heritage in Danger list

Head scientist at the Smithsonian Marine Station, Valerie Paul, collects blue-green algae samples to study the chemicals they emit. Those chemicals can endanger coral reefs, but also have biomedical potential.

Smithsonian Voices

How Algae Communicate

Smithsonian scientist Valerie Paul studies the ways marine biochemicals can potentially help restore coral reefs and create new biomedicine

Orange scalefin anthias fish swarm in front of a fire coral in the Red Sea's Ras Mohammed Marine Park, Egypt.

Smithsonian Voices

Will the Oceans of 2030 Brim With Reef Robots and Other Fancy Stuff?

Imagine a world where an Indigenous fisher can get forecasts of local marine life from a smartphone, or robots offer real-time data on coral reef health

Recent research has shown that most scientific papers on coral biodiversity are led by people in high-income countries with few coral reefs.

The Pandemic Showed What Can Be Done Without Parachute Science

With international scientists barred from traveling, local scientists in the Pacific islands are taking the chance to lead.

Coral reef health is an important indicator of the ocean’s well-being. Scientists can study corals to learn more about how climate change is affecting the oceans.

Smithsonian Voices

DNA Makes Waves in the Fight to Save Coral Reefs

This emerging technique could help scientists understand and anticipate the threats coral reefs face

It’s hard to smell them underwater, but corals, like all living things, release a range of volatile chemicals.

Why Are Scientists Studying Coral's Smell?

Gassy chemicals may tell tales of coral health and climate change

The ring-shaped coral islands known as atolls, like this one in the Maldives Islands in the Indian Ocean, may trace their formation to sea levels repeatedly rising and falling over hundreds of thousands of years, geologists say.

Why Some Geologists Say Charles Darwin's Theory of Coral Atoll Formation Is Wrong

Sea levels rising and falling over hundreds of thousands of years may have helped build the oceanic structures

The health of corals on the Great Barrier Reef is routinely being threatened by hot water temperatures. The Australian government is investigating a range of techniques to try to protect the corals and stave off warming.

Could Flushing Cold Water Over the Great Barrier Reef Save Corals?

Lack of action on climate change is forcing scientists to devise ever more elaborate ways to stave off damage

Pope’s pit viper, a venomous species that lives across Southeast Asia. Someone who is allergic to one type of snake is likely allergic to many types because their venoms have a similar composition.

What Happens When Scientists Become Allergic to Their Research

Researchers spend long periods of time around the organisms they study, and sometimes that exposure has unintended effects

Sea whip coral can come in a variety of colors, from vivid reds and oranges, yellows to rich violets and can grow up to three feet long.

Tangled 'Cord' Mistaken for Litter Is Actually a Sea Creature

Along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, beachgoers mistake sea whip coral for discarded junk

The black sea cucumber Holothuria atra is found in shallow waters along reefs and uses sand to coat itself for camouflage and protection from the sun.

Sea Cucumber Poop Could Revitalize Coral Reefs

In one reef, three million sea cucumbers released 64,000 metric tons of nutrient-packed poo back into the ecosystem

Projects that harness the public to make observations and report data about the health of our environment are growing. Anyone can join—no PhDs needed.

Innovation for Good

Twenty-Four Ways to Turn Outdoor Passions Into Citizen Science

Heading into the new year, consider collecting scientific data while skiing, hiking, surfing, biking and partaking in other adventures

A small hike in the water temperature triggers corals to dispel the algae, causing them to bleach and turn a ghostly shade of white.

Some Corals Can Survive Through Relentless Heat Waves, Surprising Scientists

The organisms can recover during a heat wave instead of afterwards, and scientists call it a 'game changer' for conservation of the species

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