When visitors at Georgia Aquarium gaze upon the diverse array of colorful corals, [biologist Kim] Stone says many mistake the often stationary specimens for beautiful rocks. But corals are actually living animals—they belong to Cnidaria, the same group as jellyfish. Tucked within their tissues are photosynthetic algae cells, called zooxanthellae. The two have an important symbiotic relationship, explains Stone, with the coral providing a home for the zooxanthellae, and the cells repaying by providing essential nutrients and giving color to the coral…

But unfortunately, there are many threats that strain this relationship. Ocean acidity, sea level rise, and particularly increased water temperatures not only affect the health of the coral, but affect the health of the zooxanthellae, Stone says. As the zooxanthellae gets stressed, it leaves the tissue and the coral begins to pale—what we know as coral bleaching.

Science Friday visits with Kim Stone, curator of fish and invertebrates at Georgia Aquarium, to learn how her team is growing coral in partnership with the Coral Restoration Foundation.

Learn more about the Coral Restoration Foundation: Rebuilding the world’s coral reefs with coral farming.

Then see what scientists and conservationists are doing on the other side of the globe: Coral Spawning at Australia’s National Sea Simulator. Plus: How dead is the Great Barrier Reef?

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