More than 150 watched Clemson's free showing of "Chasing Coral" in the McKissick Theatre.

More than 150 watched Clemson’s free showing of “Chasing Coral” in the McKissick Theatre.
Image Credit: Jim Melvin / College of Science

CLEMSON – More than 150 viewers packed McKissick Theatre on Tuesday night to watch Clemson University’s free showing of the Netflix documentary film “Chasing Coral.”

Following the eye-opening film, the inspired crowd interacted with a panel of scientists moderated by Clemson associate professor and marine biologist Michael Childress and including Ph.D. candidate Kylie Smith, graduate student Kara Noonan and the Conservation of Marine Resources team.

“Chasing Coral” features divers, photographers and scientists seeking to unravel the mysteries of why coral reefs are in dramatic decline throughout the world.

Coral reefs, which are considered one of the ocean’s most endangered and invaluable species, have been diminishing at an alarming rate for the past three decades. Marine biologists believe the chief culprit in this insidious degeneration is the multiple stresses associated with climate change. “Chasing Coral” examines this and other issues in heart-breaking detail.

The event was sponsored by the Conservation of Marine Resources Creative Inquiry Team, the Marine Ecology Creative Inquiry Team and the Clemson University SCUBA Club.

A panel of scientists, including Kara Noonan glasses) and Kylie Smith (far right) answered questions from the crowd afterward.

A panel of scientists, including Kara Noonan (glasses) and Kylie Smith (far right), answered questions from the crowd afterward.
Image Credit: Jim Melvin / College of Science

Under Childress’ guidance, Smith and more than three dozen students and volunteers from the department of biological sciences have been conducting coral restoration research for the past six years. Smith’s adventures and travails are documented in an article titled “Coral Crusader” that appeared in the January 2018 issue of Clemson World magazine. Free copies of the magazine were given out Tuesday night.

“We believe the challenges coral reefs are currently facing should be brought to the attention of the public and that anyone can make a difference in conservation efforts,” Smith said. “This documentary does a phenomenal job capturing the reality of what is occurring on coral reefs. Our research also shows impacts of climate change on coral. In our experience, if you can get someone to fall in love with a place or form an appreciation for an ecosystem, they will make changes in their own lives that will impact the future.”