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Under certain environmental stresses, zooxanthellae algae will vacate their coral hosts, leaving corals without their color and more importantly, their primary food source—a condition known as coral bleaching. Bleaching can be caused by a number of different stresses, but the primary source of bleaching events is believed to be higher than normal sea surface temperatures. During this lab, students will explore images of bleached and diseased corals, invent a way to model what happens in coral polyps during the process of coral bleaching, and use data products from NOAA's Coral Reef Watch to identify areas around the world where corals are at risk for bleaching.
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