2016 Excellence in Visual Digital Storytelling, Small Newsroom winner


Examining the impact of disappearing coral reefs

About the Project

According to The Guardian, as much as 80 percent of the Caribbean coral reefs have been lost in recent years due to multiple factors, including warming oceans, pollution and direct human impact.

In Bocas del Toro, Panama, the massive reef system had supported life for millennia, but as the coral began to die and the fisheries collapsed the impact rippled through the entire region. From indigenous tribes to tourism, the area is rapidly changing.

UNC marine scientists are studying the reefs and suggested a potential project. The challenge was to learn how the health of the reef system had direct and indirect effects on the entire region, and to tell innovative stories using the best tools available. Over spring semester our small team of 24 students researched, reported and produced Undercurrent with faculty guidance.

Undercurrent explores these stories through multiple mediums, including documentary video, 360º video, text, graphics and motion graphics, data journalism gaming. All reporting was vetted for scientific accuracy.

Undercurrent was screened and launched in April, and has already attracted attention from major news organizations including The News Hour and The Weather Channel.