As part of the annual Sherman Lecture series, a program designed to expose Belmont Hill students to various areas of STEM fields, Dr. Art Gleason ‘89, a renowned member of the University of Miami physics department, spoke to the School. Dr. Gleason specializes in remote sensing of coastal areas and provided much insight into coral reefs, how people study them, and their importance in the ecosystem.
Dr. Gleason started the discussion by providing the scientific background necessary to understand coral reefs; he discussed the biology of coral, how organisms produce such large reefs, and how they are affected by other ecological factors. Gleason outlined just how important coral reefs are, both environmentally and economically, for coastal areas, as they provide habitats for a variety of fish and bring in revenue through tourism and fishing.
As the talk went on, it took a darker turn as Gleason outlined the problems facing coral reefs today, such as increasing water temperatures and pollution. He described coral bleaching, a phenomenon where coral lose their color under environmental stress and oftentimes a prerequisite for coral death, and discussed the increase in bleaching in recent years.
Dr. Gleason discussed how, in some areas of Florida where he specializes, conservation efforts have increased fish populations, though coral reefs still struggle. While fish populations bounce back quickly after fishing is stopped, coral take many years to grow back, and, even though the decline of coral reefs is generally slowing, it will be hundreds of years before they are back to their prior levels. Dr. Gleason also described how he uses remote sensing to map coral reefs along the floor, showing awed students an incredibly vivid image of a coral reef that he had captured.
Overall, Dr. Gleason’s Chapel talk was an interesting and informative lecture that taught students about a pressing environmental issue and the solutions to it. The speech was another phenomenal Sherman lecture in a legacy of great speeches.