Resilience Among the Reefs

Jacey C. Van Wert (Graduate Student)
Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology


An anemonefish defends its home among a bleached coral in the Great Barrier Reef following a recent bleaching event caused by warm ocean waters.  A common misnomer is that bleached coral is dead; when in fact it is not and there is still is a chance for recovery.

I took this photo while scuba diving in the outer reef of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in late 2018, following two recent mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 due to extreme heat stress.  This spinecheek anemonefish, Premnas biaculeatus (closely related to Nemo - the ocellaris clownfish) was hiding in its host anemone and took me by surprise when I approached the corals. Unlike most photos in underwater photography, I chose not to edit out the floating particulate matter because these particles (detritus) are central to my study system and might supplement corals with additional nutrients, potentially being more important than we know. For this photo, I used a Panasonic Lumix LX100 with an Ikelite housing and a red filter at 10 m depth.