cover image Life on the Rocks: Building a Future for Coral Reefs

Life on the Rocks: Building a Future for Coral Reefs

Juli Berwald. Riverhead, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-08730-5

Ocean scientist Berwald (Spineless) blends memoir and science writing in this colorful look at the state of coral reefs. She writes of how, while diving, she was mesmerized by the reefs she encountered, imagining that “the sea gods and goddesses had conspired to mastermind a magnificent playground and then outfitted it in extraordinary décor.” She soon began researching how reefs have been “assaulted by a host of environmental stresses,” and met scientists, researchers, philanthropists, and filmmakers working diligently to restore them. She visits a conference in Florida, where a project to manipulate the climate over reefs via cooling or shading is pitched; visits a reef-restoration site in Sulawesi, Indonesia; and tours marine protected areas in the Dominican Republic. Along the way, Berwald weaves in stories of her daughter’s anxiety and OCD and her own struggles with parenting: “I found that it was impossible to contemplate the sickness on the reef without also considering the growing sickness in another of my loves, this one in my own home.” Indeed, she is reminded of her daughter through much of her research on reefs, making for moving dual story lines about health, healing, and hope. Nature-minded readers will find much to enjoy. (Apr.)