When he was six years old, Dean Miller already knew he wanted to be a marine biologist. At that time, growing up in Australia, the world of marine biology seemed both spectacular and limitless, he says.
"I wanted to study the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, the intricate and complex connections between the thousands of different life-forms that represent the most diverse ecosystem on the planet," Miller told Truthout.
But in the last two years, this has all changed for him.
"I now look at the reef as an ecosystem that is suffering from our actions and I feel guilty beyond belief that this is happening in my backyard, on our generation's watch," he explained. "I no longer dream of the kaleidoscope of life, color and movement that represents the world's coral reefs. Instead, I worry and fight for the actual existence of coral reefs as we know them, as the changes I see are happening all too quickly -- much quicker than the reef can adapt."
This is because over the last two years, the Great Barrier Reef, which is so dear to Miller and countless others who revel in the beauty and mysteries of the oceans, has been dying off at an unprecedented rate due primarily to warming ocean waters.
Coral bleaching occurs when corals become stressed by warmer-than-normal water, causing them to expel symbiotic algae that live in their tissues, from which they get their energy. Coral turns completely white when it bleaches. If it remains bleached long enough, it dies.