UH Maui College Student Highlights Children’s Book About Climate Change and Coral Reefs
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Ali Miller, a marine naturalist and University of Hawaiʻi Maui College student before the COVID-19 pandemic, was featured in the Mares Scuba Diving blog for her children’s book “How Cara Lost Her Color.” The book highlights the impacts of climate change on the mass bleaching of coral reefs globally.
When Ali Miller arrived on Maui in 2015, after living in Reno, Nevada her entire life, she was shocked to see firsthand what was happening in the ocean. Her arrival to the island followed one of the warmest summers on record. Corals around the world were dying in one of the largest mass bleaching events in recorded history. Without the reefs, educators say fish populations and ocean ecosystems are at risk of collapse.
“Although I’ve always been fascinated by sea creatures, I grew up far away from the ocean. It’s an understatement to say I was excited to be in Hawaiʻi studying marine science. This event was truly devastating,” Ali said. “I was determined to find a way to teach children about the effects of warming oceans so that they can adopt sustainable practices into their lives as they grow up.”
As ocean temperatures rise, corals become stressed and turn white, resulting in coral bleaching. The coral animals (polyps) lose the symbiotic algae that lives in their tissues and produces their food. During this process, corals become more susceptible to disease and inevitably die off unless temperatures cool down and conditions improve.
How Cara Lost Her Color is illustrated in colors inspired by Hawaiian reef fish. Through relatable characters and words that rhyme, kids connect with corals as animals and learn how vital they are to all marine species.
In the story, Cara the coral polyp and her algae friend, Zoey, live happily alongside many other sea creatures who call the reef their home. But when human activity causes the ocean temperature to rise, Zoey must escape with her family and leave Cara behind. The question arises: “Can humans help bring Zoey back and save the reef?”
The author believes they can. “I want children to grow up with an understanding of how climate change impacts the ocean and what humans can do to protect the reefs. Everything from the clothes we wear to the food we eat comes with a carbon price tag. We must change our way of thinking in order to take that next step toward a sustainable future.”