Life on the rocks Building a future for coral reefs

Juli Berwald

Book - 2022

"Coral reefs are a microcosm of our planet: wondrously diverse, deeply interconnected, and critically imperiled. They sustain entire ecosystems and protect vulnerable coasts. But corals across the planet are in the middle of an unprecedented die-off, beset by warming oceans, pollution, human damage, and their own devastating pandemic. Even under stress, they are out-of-this world gorgeous, sending out warning flares in fluorescent bursts of yellow, pink, and indigo. Juli Berwald fell in lov...e with coral reefs as a marine biology student, entranced by their beauty and complexity. While she was concerned by bleaching events and coral disease, she didn't fully understand what a dead reef meant until she experienced one on a dive: barren, decaying, and coated in slime. Deeply alarmed, she traveled the world desperate to discover how to prevent their loss. Life on the Rocks is a meditative ode to the reefs and the undaunted scientists working to save them against almost impossible odds. Berwald explores what it means to keep fighting a battle that can't be won, contemplating the inevitable grief of climate change and the beauty of small victories"--

Saved in:
Subjects
Published
New York : Riverhead Books 2022.
Language
English
Physical Description
336 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780593087305
0593087305
Main Author
Juli Berwald (author)
  • Reef futures
  • What keeps a reef together
  • Florida
  • Sulawesi
  • Bali
  • Dominican Republic
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Australia, from afar.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* The increasing threat against the world's reefs has been in the news a great deal, especially since revelations about the devastating bleaching of coral at the Great Barrier Reef. Science writer Berwald (Spineless, 2017) has conducted an excellent study of efforts to save the reefs, talking to a plethora of scientists around the world over the past few years. Attending conferences and traveling to reefs near Key West, Bali, and Indonesia, she writes of out-of-the-box geoengineering projects, aquarium aficionados, and intriguing studies of reef evolution. This is a long game in terms of results, she stresses, that nevertheless must be approached at the fastest of speeds. In an intriguing authorial choice, she shares the family crisis that unfolds while she researches the coral, writing of her teenage daughter's increasingly fraught battle with debilitating anxiety and OCD. In both cases, the potential for error is high, and no easy cure is available. Berwald's concern for her daughter and growing awareness of the intricacy surrounding the fight to save the reefs make for a compulsive reading experience. Solidly researched, sharply observed, and compassionately rendered, the parallel struggles in Life on the Rocks make for science writing that is illuminating on several levels. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Marine biologist and science writer Berwald (Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone) shares her love for oceans in this book exploring the fate of coral reefs in a warming climate. Berwald explains that coral has a symbiotic relationship with algae, which, through photosynthesis, supplies the coral with most of its sugar for energy, while coral protects the algae within its tissues. The warming oceans have led to extensive coral bleaching, leaving behind dead zones where the coral once protected other sea life. Berwald travels around the world, dives to study the reefs, and interviews the scientists who are leading valiant efforts to save coral reefs in Indonesia (including Sulawesi and Bali), the Dominican Republic, Australia, and Florida, as well as in her own backyard of Galveston, TX. These efforts include coral nurseries (where baby corals are nurtured before being planted on scaffolding in the ocean) and seeding clouds with sea spray to brighten them and reflect heat away from the reefs. Entwined with the story of saving coral is Berwald's engrossing personal history, which includes her daughter's battle with mental illness. VERDICT A good option for readers interested in climate change and marine biology.—Caren Nichter Copyright 2022 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Ocean scientist Berwald (Spineless) blends memoir and science writing in this colorful look at the state of coral reefs. She writes of how, while diving, she was mesmerized by the reefs she encountered, imagining that "the sea gods and goddesses had conspired to mastermind a magnificent playground and then outfitted it in extraordinary décor." She soon began researching how reefs have been "assaulted by a host of environmental stresses," and met scientists, researchers, philanthropists, and filmmakers working diligently to restore them. She visits a conference in Florida, where a project to manipulate the climate over reefs via cooling or shading is pitched; visits a reef-restoration site in Sulawesi, Indonesia; and tours marine protected areas in the Dominican Republic. Along the way, Berwald weaves in stories of her daughter's anxiety and OCD and her own struggles with parenting: "I found that it was impossible to contemplate the sickness on the reef without also considering the growing sickness in another of my loves, this one in my own home." Indeed, she is reminded of her daughter through much of her research on reefs, making for moving dual story lines about health, healing, and hope. Nature-minded readers will find much to enjoy. (Apr.) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Ocean scientist Berwald (Spineless) blends memoir and science writing in this colorful look at the state of coral reefs. She writes of how, while diving, she was mesmerized by the reefs she encountered, imagining that "the sea gods and goddesses had conspired to mastermind a magnificent playground and then outfitted it in extraordinary décor." She soon began researching how reefs have been "assaulted by a host of environmental stresses," and met scientists, researchers, philanthropists, and filmmakers working diligently to restore them. She visits a conference in Florida, where a project to manipulate the climate over reefs via cooling or shading is pitched; visits a reef-restoration site in Sulawesi, Indonesia; and tours marine protected areas in the Dominican Republic. Along the way, Berwald weaves in stories of her daughter's anxiety and OCD and her own struggles with parenting: "I found that it was impossible to contemplate the sickness on the reef without also considering the growing sickness in another of my loves, this one in my own home." Indeed, she is reminded of her daughter through much of her research on reefs, making for moving dual story lines about health, healing, and hope. Nature-minded readers will find much to enjoy. (Apr.) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Coral reefs are a microcosm of our planet: wondrously diverse, deeply interconnected, and critically imperiled. They sustain entire ecosystems and protect vulnerable coasts. But corals across the planet are in the middle of an unprecedented die-off, beset by warming oceans, pollution, human damage, and their own devastating pandemic. Even under stress, they are out-of-this world gorgeous, sending out warning flares in fluorescent bursts of yellow, pink, and indigo. Juli Berwald fell in love with coral reefs as a marine biology student, entranced by their beauty and complexity. While she was concerned by bleaching events and coral disease, she didn't fully understand what a dead reef meant until she experienced one on a dive: barren, decaying, and coatedin slime. Deeply alarmed, she traveled the world desperate to discover how to prevent their loss. Life on the Rocks is a meditative ode to the reefs and the undaunted scientists working to save them against almost impossible odds. Berwald explores what it means to keep fighting a battle that can't be won, contemplating the inevitable grief of climate change and the beauty of small victories"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

In this meditative ode to coral reefs, the author, paying tribute to the undaunted scientists working to save them against almost impossible odds, explores what it means to keep fighting a battle whose outcome is uncertain. Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The story of the urgent fight to save coral reefs, and why it matters to us allCoral reefs are a microcosm of our planet: extraordinarily diverse, deeply interconnected, and full of wonders. When they’re thriving, these fairy gardens hidden beneath the ocean’s surface burst with color and life. They sustain bountiful ecosystems and protect vulnerable coasts. Corals themselves are evolutionary marvels that build elaborate limestone formations from their collective skeletons, broker symbiotic relationships with algae, and manufacture their own fluorescent sunblock. But corals across the planet are in the middle of an unprecedented die-off, beset by warming oceans, pollution, damage by humans, and a devastating pandemic.Juli Berwald fell in love with coral reefs as a marine biology student, entranced by their beauty and complexity. Alarmed by their peril, she traveled the world to discover how to prevent their loss. She met scientists and activists operating in emergency mode, doing everything they can think of to prevent coral reefs from disappearing forever. She was so amazed by the ingenuity of these last-ditch efforts that she joined in rescue missions, unexpected partnerships, and risky experiments, and helped rebuild reefs with rebar and zip ties.Life on the Rocks is an inspiring, lucid, meditative ode to the reefs and the undaunted scientists working to save them against almost impossible odds. As she also attempts to help her daughter in her struggle with mental illness, Berwald explores what it means to keep fighting a battle whose outcome is uncertain. She contemplates the inevitable grief of climate change and the beauty of small victories.