Chasing Coral

“Most people stare up into space with wonder. Yet, we have this almost alien world on our own planet just teeming with life. But it’s a world people almost never explore.”

In 2016, the world experienced the largest coral bleaching event as of this film’s release. In the last 30 years alone, 50% of the world’s corals were lost to the warming of the oceans. When Richard Vevers, Phil Dustan, Dr. Ruth Gates, and Zack Rago saw what was happening in the oceans, they set out to film underwater time-lapse footage of the bleaching and death of the corals, hoping to show the public and inform them on the severity of these events. These scientists and researchers worked through technological and weather-related obstacles, spending four months under water in order to capture the deaths of various corals in the Great Barrier Reef, now of which 29% are lost. Over the course of three years, the crew managed to acquire 500+ hours of underwater footage with help from volunteers in over 30 countries documenting the bleaching events.

This documentary brings young scientists into the world of oceans, teaching them how global warming is affecting the ecosystems in our oceans, specifically corals. Through the film, viewers see how global warming is killing corals at a rapid rate—an event that will have a rebound effect on all the Earth’s species. As one ecosystem dies, another will die, and so on until there is nothing left (see: interconnectedness). Dr. Ruth Gates, a former marine biologist at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, said “If we can’t save this ecosystem, are we going to have the courage to save the next ecosystem down the line?” (Chasing Coral, 2017). The documentary emphasizes the importance of educating youth on the changes happening in the ocean and how there is still time to stop the world from rising in temperature. A great comparison made by Richard Vevers can help young watchers understand the gravity of global warming and coral loss in a simple way. He said that a rise in ocean temperature is like a rise in body temperature. It is like the ocean has a fever; an increase of 1, 2, or 3 degrees could be potentially fatal. The researchers on the team saw this happen first-hand as they descended into the depths of the ocean and witnessed the deaths of the coral reefs. However, the film did not end on a negative note. It ended on a note of hope. A hope that it is not too late to reverse the damage that has been done. A hope that we can protect the reefs that we still have, work towards sustainable energy, and potentially watch the corals come back to life.

©2024 ClimateLit (Kayla Albers)


  • In an effort to continue informing the public, Richard Vevers created The Ocean Agency as a free educational platform to provide resources to educators on the global warming crisis and how it affects our oceans.
  • The film also has its own website, which includes a page for teaching resources. It notably features the “Unstoppable Schools Project,” a project and research-based learning curriculum designed for middle and high school students. The page also contains shorter lesson plans, video clips, and activities for those looking for less of a time-commitment.

Publisher: Exposure Labs, 2017

Pages: 1 hr 29 min


Audience: Questers (8-13), Rebels (14-older)

Format: Films

Topics: Coral Bleaching, Coral Reefs, Corals, Global Warming, Hope, Interconnectedness, Marine Conservation, Marine Ecosystems, Oceans