Chasing Coral, film with UGA ties, wins Emmy

Writer: Beth Gavrilles, bethgav@uga.edu
Contact: James W. Porter, jporter@uga.edu

When Chasing Coral was named Outstanding Nature Documentary at the 39th Annual News and Documentary Emmy® Awards on Oct. 1, University of Georgia ecologist James Porter was among the film’s cast and crew on stage to accept the award.

Chasing Coral, which documents the global decline of coral reefs, features a series of underwater photographs taken by Porter that provide a “before” and “after” glimpse of the coral reefs of Discovery Bay, Jamaica.

Jeff Orlowski, the film’s director and producer, spoke on behalf of the entire team in accepting the award.

“This has been multiple years in the making, trying to reveal the invisible problem happening to coral reefs all around the world,” he said. “We’re on pace to lose coral reefs, it is a scary reality that we’re facing right now—but there’s something we can still do about it.”

The film focuses on the spread of coral bleaching, a phenomenon caused by rising ocean temperatures. When the water becomes too warm for them to tolerate, the symbiotic algae that normally inhabit coral die off, revealing the coral’s bone-white limestone skeletons underneath. Because corals can’t survive for long without their symbiotic algae, bleaching often leads to coral death.

And although coral reefs make up only one percent of the world’s oceans, they are critically important ecologically and economically, according to Porter, an emeritus professor in the UGA Odum School of Ecology. Coral reefs support more biodiversity than tropical rainforests, serving as home to roughly twenty-five percent of marine life. They also buffer shorelines from storms, helping prevent coastal erosion and provide economic benefits from tourism and fishing.

Porter said he sees his participation in this award winning documentary as a logical extension of his devotion to teaching, and hopes the documentary’s Emmy win will bring it to the attention of a wider audience.

“Teach students, teach the world,” he said. “We must address and solve environmental problems.”

For more information about Chasing Coral, see www.chasingcoral.com.

Photo credit: Marc Bryan-Brown Photography