Australia, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog

What the Great Barrier Reef is made of [Australia]

Australia, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blogIntro: When given the opportunity… or when in Rome… actually, I don’t think either of these really work too well, but what I’m trying to do is segway into my blog post about my stop-over in Cairn, Queensland, Australia; gateway the Great Barrier Reef!

Australia, Great Barrier Reef, GBR, Queensland, Pacific, fish, coral, map, locationHaving come via New South Wales and a month at my research field site in Papua New Guinea (a post saved for another time!), I had to stop-over in Cairns on my return. Being a student of earth and ocean sciences, I have a love for the oceans and am fascinated by marine life and processes. I’ve wanted to do my scuba diving certification and dive the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), thus, I took the opportunity to delay my flight-layover and check out the fish and coral on a 5 day live-a-board boat with ProDive PADI from Cairns.

Australia, Prodive, PADI, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog

Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef – Australia

Being underwater is like immersing yourself into a different world, and what a better place to do it than the Great Barrier Reef; one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Not only is it home to over 2000 species of fish, sharks, turtles and jellies, but it includes over 600 types of coral, which is going to the highlight of this post. While not as popular or well photographed as the stunning fish, the corals of the GBR are the lifeline, and as a geologist it’s also cool to see one of the most common rock types in the making; limestone.

Australia, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, underwater, photography, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog

Stunning colours and varieties of coral (e.g. table, branching, finger) on the Great Barrier Reef – Australia

Science Spiel: Reefs and Future Rocks along the Great Barrier (Oceanography, Biology, Geology)

Australia, Prodive, PADI, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog, elephant ear, cabbage, lettuce, calcium carbonate

Cabbage coral “elephant ear” – Great Barreir Reef, Australia

As I mentioned in the intro, corals really are the lifeline to the GBR, and in fact, they are living creatures themselves. Each coral is a collection of tiny coral polyps; little jellyfish (sort of). There are many different varieties of coral, but they can be classified as two main types; hard and soft coral. Hard corals are by far the most common, and they come in a variety of spectacular types, which are named quite appropriately I think, as obvious by the photos. These include branching coral (the fastest growing coral, including the common staghorn, finger and needle forms), boulder coral (honeycomb, brain) plate/table coralcabbage/lettuce coral (elephant ear), and more!

Australia, Prodive, PADI, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog, elephant ear, cabbage, lettuce, calcium carbonate, polyps, jellyfish

Tiny little polyps on lettuce/cabbage coral – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Australia, Prodive, PADI, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog, staghorn, bracnhing, calcium carbonate, polyps, jellyfish, boulder coral, brain coral, finger coral

Variety of coral on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, including finger coral (purple, centre), brain coral (yellow, right), plate coral (far right), and a range of elephant ear, cabbage, lettuce and other branching corals.

The main structure of coral is formed from each polyps as they secrete calcium carbonate (CaCO3) from the surrounding seawater and use this to form the coral’s skeleton. This is how reefs build up to form great masses, and what’s even neater is that the calcium carbonate skeleton forms rocks called limestone; one of the most common rock types found in the geological record. What’s so important about limestone is that even when you see rocks that are millions of years old and on the peaks of mountains thousands of kilometres from the ocean, if they are made of limestone then it is likely that they originally formed in an environment much like the Great Barrier Reef we see today.

Australia, Prodive, PADI, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog, staghorn, bracnhing, calcium carbonate, polyps, jellyfish

Branching staghorn coral – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Australia, Prodive, PADI, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog, staghorn, bracnhing, calcium carbonate, polyps, jellyfish

More branching staghorn coral – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Australia, Prodive, PADI, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog, staghorn, bracnhing, calcium carbonate, coral, fish, coral bleaching, bleaching, bleach, climate change, global warming, ocean acidification, environmental stress, nature

An example of weak coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Because of their calcium carbonate skeletons corals are very sensitive to their environment, specifically changes in temperature and acidity. Even small changes to slightly more acidic conditions (lower pH) will cause enough damage to dissolve a coral’s CaCO3 skeleton. An indication of early environmental stress, possibly from corals becoming too hot, is bleaching (a response when corals shed their colourful algae and appear bleached). Unfortunately, due to climate change the average sea surface temperature is likely to continue to increase to up to 1 to 3 degree warmer than at present in the next 100 years, which, along with the increased CO2 in the atmosphere and rising sea level, will decrease coral’s small habitable zones (Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report, 2009).

Australia, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, underwater, photography, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog

Beautiful colours of the coral (via tiny algae) and fish – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Final Thoughts

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most biodiverse and therefore complex natural systems on earth. It is massive, close to 350,000 km2, and yet incredibly fragile. I would encourage anyone to take the opportunity (when in Rome!) to check out the reef, as it really lives up to its title of one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. If you keep your eyes open and curiosity engaged you will learn a lot and appreciated this unique underwater environment all the more. A good way to educate  yourself is to read up ahead of time on the reef, or even easier, check out some local educational presentations like Reef Teach in Cairns. Scuba diving and/or snorkeling is a fantastic way to see the GBR, but as I would also recommend keenly, try not to be too distracted by the fish and check of the living future rocks in the making (i.e., amazing corals that surround you)!

…that being said, I will end this post with some non-coral focused photos below because I’m a hypocrite, cheers!

-Stephanie

Thanks for reading, if you like my blog then please subscribe by entering your email in the top-right sidebar 🙂

Australia, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog, giant clam, clam, coral, fish

Giant clam (~1 metre wide) – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Australia, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog, turtle, sea turtle, green turtle, squit, crush, turtles, coral, fish

Green sea turtle – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Australia, Prodive, PADI, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog, trigger fish, fishes, photography, underwater

Trigger fish – Great Barrier Reef, Cairns

Australia, Prodive, PADI, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, fish, coral, colourful, hard coral, soft coral, types of coral, adventure, scuba diving, snorkeling, travel, GBR, oceanography, geology, padi, scuba, swin, ocean, map, location, blog, fishes, photography, underwater, butterfly fish, butterfly

Butterfly fish – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Don’t forget to subscribe (by entering your email in top-right sidebar), leave a comment, share this post, or follow me on twitter, cheers!

Leave a Reply

17 Comments

  1. Pingback: Coral Bleaching On Again – How do we tell the story more effectively this time | Peter Sale Books

  2. Pingback: Coral Bleaching On Again – How do we tell the story more effectively this time | Peter Sale Books

  3. Pingback: Coral reefs, fossil fuels and climate change: Why Australia might be a luckier country than Canada. | Peter Sale Books

  4. Pingback: Coral reefs, fossil fuels and climate change: Why Australia might be a luckier country than Canada. | Peter Sale Books

  5. Pingback: Bucket List: Top 100 things to do before you die | The Wandering Neanderthal

  6. Pingback: Bucket List: Top 100 things to do before you die | The Wandering Neanderthal

  7. I love coming on your posts. I do believe you’re the only geologist I follow, which makes me wonder why I don’t read more. You also remind me of how long it’s been since I’ve done a geo-post. I hope you had a great cert. course. Mine (ages ago in Fiji) was one of the best experiences of my life.

    • Thank you so much! Yes I had a great time with the cert. I’m glad you enjoy my blog posts and geology! I hope to look forward to some new geo-posts from you as well 🙂

  8. I love coming on your posts. I do believe you’re the only geologist I follow, which makes me wonder why I don’t read more. You also remind me of how long it’s been since I’ve done a geo-post. I hope you had a great cert. course. Mine (ages ago in Fiji) was one of the best experiences of my life.

    • Thank you so much! Yes I had a great time with the cert. I’m glad you enjoy my blog posts and geology! I hope to look forward to some new geo-posts from you as well 🙂

  9. I had no idea limestone was made by coral. Thanks, Steph! I learned something today!

  10. With your well written posts about land-forms and now ‘underwater-forms’ I am beginning to believe that you are truly an amphibian!
    In contrast I am near the base of Mt. Lemmon in Tucson Arizona right now, and later this evening will be driving up to around 2000 m for taking pictures of the lunar eclipse. Across the road from where I will be is a huge gneiss outcrop. In fact most of the Catalina Mtns. are metamorphic.

    • Metamorphic rocks are lovely, I don’t get to work in them very often but when I do I am always fascinated by the minerals and structures found these high temperature and pressure rocks!

  11. I will never get there. Thanks for sharing your great photos. Rosemarie