Course Coordinator: 
Timothy Ravasi
Coral Reef Ecology and Biology

Discover the largest and most complex biological structures on earth in this introduction to tropical coral reefs and the organisms and processes responsible for their formation. From an overview of reefs and their tropical marine environment, expand into the evolution, systematics, physiology, ecology and symbiosis of reef building corals. Learn about structure and ecological dynamics of coral reef fish communities, and the major characteristics of other key animals and plants on reefs. Recognize key processes on shallow and deep reefs, and variability among reefs, including those of the Okinawan area.  Examine cutting-edge questions in coral reef biology and conservation. Critically analyze natural and human disturbances to reefs with an emphasis on current models of management and conservation.  Design a marine refuge area based on ecological and conservation principles. Develop practical skills in sample and survey methods via snorkeling activities. 

Course Content: 
  • Introduction and course assignments
  • Reef invertebrates
  • Producers
  • Fish 1
  • Fish 2
  • Reef formation and evolution
  • Reef zonation
  • Grazers and grazing
  • Calcification and bioerosion
  • Reef resilience
  • Reproduction of reef species
  • Nursery habitats
  • Reef food webs
  • Biodiversity and biogeography
  • Survey methods (practical lectures via snorkeling)
  • The reefs of Japan
  • Threats to reefs
  • Reef conservation
  • Marine reserve design practical
Course Type: 
25% literature review 50% final exam 25% field trip and data analysis
Text Book: 
  • Goldberg, W.M. The Biology of Reefs and Reef Organisms
  • Sheppard C.R.C, Davy, S.K., and Pilling, G.M. The Biology of Coral Reefs
Reference Book: 
    Prior Knowledge: 
    Undergraduate knowledge of general biology and zoology. Able to swim and snorkel for the field trip component of the course.