One of the most spectacular marine environments on Earth is the coral reef. These complex and colorful communities provide endless hours of relaxation for tourists as well as gorgeous images for magazines, television shows, and movies. Coral reefs cover less than one percent of the surface of the oceans but their influence, in the tropics, is extremely important. Most reefs are what we consider 'classical' coral reefs (fringing, barrier, atoll) and just one stage in the constantly changing surface of Earth. Other reefs (some of the biggest and best known) are continental reefs and are also changing but were formed in a very different way than the 'classical' reefs.
I have been lucky to spend many months on coral reefs of all kinds. The following lessons will take you through general marine science lessons about coral reefs and are illustrated primarily with photographs from coral reefs in the Cayman Islands (Atlantic), Cook Islands (South Pacific), and Australia's Great Barrier Reef. My husband, Shane, and I took most of the images during our travels to these fabulous places.