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Student Success

UNCW biology and marine biology professor Joe Pawlik and film studies student Boston Dang ’18 placed first in the “Ocean 180 Video Challenge,” a national competition designed to make marine sciences more accessible to the public. Coral Reef Rescue: Save the Parrotfishes! received the most votes among the middle school students who ranked the 10 finalists.

The challenge was to transform recently published ocean science research into in an engaging, 180-second video for general audiences.

“You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to take a scientific paper and condense it into a three-minute video,” said Pawlik, the Frank Hawkins Kenan Professor of Marine Biology, who was a finalist in a previous competition. He said working with Dang, who is minoring in business administration, made it possible to produce a high-quality video that explains, in clear terms, threats to Caribbean coral reefs, the effects of overfishing and the role of the parrotfishes in the reefs’ survival.

Their video was based on the scientific abstract “Indirect effects of overfishing on Caribbean reefs: sponges overgrow reef-building corals,” which Pawlik co-authored with professional colleagues. It examined the connection between overfishing and competition from sponges and seaweed, both of which parrotfishes eat. It found that sponges on reefs in overfished areas were three times more likely to kill corals than those areas where parrotfishes were plentiful.

After 10 finalists were selected, 21,000 middle school students were asked to vote on their three favorites.

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Originally published May 16, 2018.