Reef Rescue Documentary | Running Time: 1 hour | Language: English

With half of the world’s coral reefs already lost, and the dire prediction we will lose another 90% within 30 years, scientists are racing against time to create super corals that survive in warmer oceans.

Can they do it before it’s too late?

In the last 50 years, we have lost roughly half of the planet’s coral. Reef Rescue follows scientists unlocking the secrets of how coral has evolved over millions of years. In a world where most of the coral are dying, this research will help scientists discover why some coral are surviving and how this knowledge can be applied to save the rest.

Reef Rescue unveils the ground-breaking science behind “super corals” and a radical new plan to save the Earth’s imperiled coral reefs. Weaving together exquisite underwater expeditions, a soaring, A.I.-powered, global reef mapping mission, and cutting-edge assisted evolution research in Australia, Hawaii, Florida, and the South Pacific, this one-hour special introduces us to the discovery of “super corals”; the small fraction of corals that survive otherwise lethal hot temperatures. By creating similarly resilient corals the world over, scientists believe they can buy precious time for dead and dying coral reefs. It’s a race against the clock, and there is no time to lose.

As scientists study their amazing properties, four scientists are on the forefront of this research: Laetitia Hedouin at the Center of Insular Research and Observatory of Environment (CRIOBE) in Moorea, French Polynesia; Ruth Gates at the Gates Lab in Hawaii; Madeleine Van Oppen at the Australian Institute of Marine Science at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia; and Julia Baum at the Baum Lab, University of Victoria, in Canada. These super women of super coral, along with biologists Greg Asner, Alannah Vellacott and Andrew Baker, are racing against time to rescue coral reefs.


  • Genre: Documentary
  • Running Time: 1 hour
  • Writers: Su Rynard, Sally Blake
  • Director: Su Rynard
  • Producer: Merit Jensen Carr, Aaron Floresco
  • Original Music by: Stéphane Lopez
  • Format: HD
  • Languages: English
  • Subtitles: Yes


Greg Asner | Director, Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science at Arizona State University

Greg Asner is the Director of the Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science at Arizona State University. He also serves as a Professor in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning as well as the School for Earth and Space Exploration. He is an ecologist recognized for his exploratory and applied research on ecosystems and climate change at regional to global scales. His research spans the areas of spatial ecology and biodiversity, terrestrial carbon cycle, animal-habitat interactions, and climate change. Dr. Asner has published hundreds of scientific articles and has served in numerous national and international programs with NASA, the U.S. State Department, and the United Nations. Asner is a recipient of multiple scientific awards, including the Heinz Award for the Environment. He is an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Andrew Baker | Associate Professor of Marine Biology & Fisheries at the University of Miami

Andrew Baker is an Associate Professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. His research investigates the impacts of climate change on coral reef ecosystems, focusing on the adaptive response of corals to warming temperatures. His lab is currently developing and testing ways of manipulating corals to make them more resistant to heat-induced episodes of coral “bleaching”. These methods are now being field-trialed in South Florida as a way to increase the long-term success of reef restoration efforts. He is also interested in how science can inform efforts to improve coral survivorship through assisted migration and/or selective breeding. Originally from the United Kingdom, Prof. Baker came to the US in 1993 on a Fulbright Scholarship, after studying Natural Sciences at Queens’ College, Cambridge University, where he graduated with double First Class Honours and the University’s Prizes in Ecology and Zoology. He received his Ph.D. in Marine Biology from the University of Miami in 1999, before working for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York, where he was also an adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University, and a Fellow of the Explorer’s Club (FN 2003). He returned to the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School as faculty in 2005 and was named a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation in 2008 for his work on the adaptive response of corals to climate change. In 2017 Baker became an Inventor-in-Residence at the new Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami, and in 2018 he was named to a National Academy of Sciences committee to study interventions to increase the resilience of coral reefs.

Julia Baum | Professor of Biology at the University of Victoria, Canada

Julia Baum is a Professor of Biology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. She earned her BSc from McGill University (Montreal), and her MSc and PhD from Dalhousie University (Halifax), all in Biology. Julia subsequently held a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, followed by a Schmidt Ocean Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), UC Santa Barbara. Julia was named an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in Ocean Sciences in 2011, a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation in 2017, and an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellow in 2018. She is an editor for the journals Conservation Biology and Ecography. Julia is passionate about conservation outreach and policy, open science, and levelling the playing field for women in science. Her current research program focuses on understanding how overfishing and climate change are impacting marine ecosystems and how we can ensure the persistence of resilient marine ecosystems over the long term. Over the past decade, Julia built an interdisciplinary conservation-relevant research program on Kiritimati (Republic of Kiribati, central equatorial Pacific). During fifteen expeditions (2009 – 2019), she and her team have collected data on corals, fishes, invertebrates, and oceanographic conditions at underwater sites across the atoll’s local disturbance gradient, and conducted hundreds of interviews with people in each of the atoll’s village, to quantify the socioeconomic status of the atoll’s inhabitants, the nature of local stressors, and how these stressors have altered the coral reef ecosystem. Kiritimati was the epicentre of the 2015-2016 El Niño, and Julia and her team have studied the corals intensively since this time, tagging, sampling (for microbial and genetic analyses), and tracking the fate of over 1,200 coral colonies to understand the factors influencing coral resilience to heat stress.

Ruth Gates | Former Director of the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology

Ruth Gates was a world-renowned scientist and champion of coral reefs. She was the Director of the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa and the first female President of the prestigious International Society for Reef Studies before she passed away at age 56 in October 2018. She was awarded her PhD in 1990 from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England and completed postdoctoral training at the University of California in Los Angeles before moving to Hawaiʻi in 2003. At HIMB she was a respected coral researcher for 15 years with over 100 refereed scientific publications. In 2015, Ruth was awarded ARCS Foundation Scientist of the Year and in 2017 she was featured as a principal cast member and science advisor in the award-winning Netflix documentary Chasing Coral. In 2018 Ruth was an invited participant in the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit meetings. Her team of researchers, the Gates Coral Lab, continue to carry out her vision to develop and advance solutions to improve the future of coral reefs. (Photo credit: HIMB)

Laetitia Hédouin | Scientist, PhD in Marine Oceanology

Laetitia Hédouin is a researcher at the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) and she is working at the Center of Insular Research and Observatory of Environment (CRIOBE) in Moorea, French Polynesia. She graduated from the University of La Rochelle with a Ph.D. in biological oceanography with an expertise in tropical ecotoxicology. Her first research was devoted to understanding how metal pollutants accumulate in marine organisms in the specific case of the lagoon of New Caledonia. She joined the laboratory of Dr. Ruth Gates as a postdoctoral fellow, specializing in coral biology. Her research mainly concerned how early life and adult stages of corals were altered by land-based contamination in Hawaiian islands. Finally, in 2011, she joined the CNRS and since then dedicated her research to the coral reefs of French Polynesia. Her research concerns how corals from French Polynesia are threatened by global and local changes, mostly in Moorea but also in other islands of French Polynesia. Her interest lies in understanding how a changing environment affects coral biology, but also in finding solutions to assist corals to face the XXI century. To do that, she develops research in coral restoration in partnership with Dr. Mary Hagedorn, from the Smithsonian Institute, launch programs how “assisting” early life stages of corals to rising seawater temperature and recently coordinate a research expedition on mesophotic research. Finally, she is also involved in monitoring coral reefs of French Polynesia, especially during the bleaching events of 2016, 2017 and lastly 2019. To better assess coral bleaching in 2017, she launches a citizen program called “Un Oeil sur le Corail” to involve the local citizens in monitoring coral reefs. Dr. Hédouin is heavily involved in coral research in French Polynesia, communicating with the local population and mentoring students.

Madeleine van Oppen | Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science

Professor Madeleine van Oppen is an ecological geneticist with an interest in microbial symbioses and climate change adaptation of reef corals. Her work has been published in >190 peer reviewed papers and book chapters. Her early career focused on evolutionary and population genetics of algae and fish, and subsequently corals. She obtained a PhD in the molecular ecology of algae in 1995 (U Groningen, Netherlands) and is currently an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow with part positions at the University of Melbourne and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Madeleine is driven by a desire to find biological solutions for mitigating the effects of climate warming that have resulted in a terrifyingly rapid loss of coral around the world. Coral reefs have tremendous economic, biodiversity and cultural value, yet they are being lost at an alarming rate primarily due to climate warming. Prof van Oppen’s team is using bioengineering approaches aimed at increasing coral climate resilience and the likelihood that coral reefs will survive this century. These interventions include coral host hybridisation and conditioning, bacterial probiotics and directed evolution of microalgal symbionts.

Alannah Vellacott | Marine Ecologist and Coral Restoration Specialist at Coral Vita, the Bahamas

Alannah is a Bahamian marine ecologist with 11 years of experience working in marine research, conservation and education in The Bahamas and The Caribbean. She is currently the Coral Restoration Specialist at Coral Vita, and a member of Diving With A Purpose.

Alannah was a former Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholar (BES Scholar) through Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF). This awarded her a full scholarship to attend the Island School in Eleuthera and participate in a 6-month, paid internship at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. This experience spring-boarded, Alannah’s career in marine research and conservation. Since then, she has made the rounds working and volunteering for non-profit environmental conservation organizations including the Cape Eleuthera Institute, BREEF, the Bahamas National Trust, Community Conch, The Nature Conservancy and most recently, Perry Institute for Marine Science.

A PADI OWSI with 17 years of experience in diving, Alannah has travelled The Bahamas and The Caribbean working on a variety of marine research and outreach projects. Some of her experiences include conducting AGRRA coral and fish surveys, establishing coral nurseries, outplanting nursery-grown corals back onto coral reefs, shark, conch and reef health research and even shipwreck mapping and blue hole ethnography. Alannah received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Ecology in 2017 at South Dakota State University and plans to pursue a graduate’s degree in Marine Ecology in the near future.

Production Team

SU RYNARD | Director, Writer

Su Rynard is a Canadian filmmaker inspired by science, ecology, and the human relationship to the natural world. MOSQUITO (2017) produced by Yap films for the Discovery Network USA and narrated by Jeremy Renner, premiered at AFI Docs and was broadcast in over 220 countries/territories around the globe. Rynard’s documentary THE MESSENGER (2015) received multiple awards, notably Best Conservation Documentary at Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and the Buffon Prize from the Pariscience International Film Festival. Her dramatic fiction film KARDIA (2006) was awarded the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at the Hamptons Film Festival. Her films have screened in festivals around the world including the Toronto Intl Film Festival, Hot Docs Film Festival and the Rotterdam International Film Festival. She recently created a five-part web series DON’T BLINK (2018) for Facebook Watch and Discovery GO USA. Su Rynard is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and was a Director Resident at the Canadian Film Centre. She lives and works in Toronto.

SALLY BLAKE | Writer, Producer

Sally Blake is a Canadian producer/director living in France, and partner in Films à Cinq. With a strong interest in art and culture, recent films include Cinema Through the Eye of Magnum (ARTE, BBC, TMC, Canal+, Telluride premier); Beauty and Ruin (ARTE, AVRO, Superchannel, premier FIFA, Austin Film Festival) and the docu-animated hybrid web series The Real History of H.I.P.H.O.P. (ARTE Creative). At the same time, and in the face of grave environmental threats, Sally is dedicated more films to the theme of science and the natural world. Recent productions include The Messenger (Netflix, ARTE, CBC, Canal D, winner Best Conservation Film at Jackson Wild, cinema release North America) and The Shadow of Gold (ARTE, TVO, Canal D, SVT, Canadian cinema release). Her upcoming films include Reef Rescue (ARTE, CBC, Vulcan) and King of the North (France Television, Nat Geo Wild, CBC).


For the past fifteen years Aaron Floresco has been writing, directing and producing award-winning films through his company Past Perfect Productions. Many of his documentaries explore topics within the arts/culture, social-issue and history genres. Two of Aaron’s most recent projects, Take Good Care of Each Other: The Fred Penner Story (2019) and Facing Injustice: The Relocation of Japanese Canadians (2018) were broadcast in Canada by the CBC to much acclaim.

Always striving to produce compelling films, in more recent years Aaron’s creative interests have expanded by developing science & nature documentaries. His enthusiasm to reach new audiences has also led to collaborations with international partners, further broadening the global impact of his work. Aaron also expresses his creativity by producing, writing and/or directing narrative short films, true-crime documentary series and music videos. His films have screened at festivals around the world and been shown on every major Canadian network. Aaron is further increasing his production talents by developing projects in the evolving world of VR/360 production.


For over 30 years, Merit Motion Pictures (MMP) has worked with Canada’s foremost writers and directors to produce award-winning documentary films and series. During this time, MMP has partnered with BBC, ARTE, ZDF, France TV, Vulcan, CBC, Smithsonian Channel, National Geographic Channel and many others. MMP is a frequent partner for international science and nature co-productions and is fortunate to have access to the highest and most flexible tax credits in Canada. Executive producer and founder, Merit Jensen Carr, is passionate about telling stories which reflect humanity’s relationship with the natural world and has received some of the industry’s top honours including the inaugural HOT DOCS Don Haig Award for Special Achievement in Producing. Recent highlights include the MMP & CAPA/Films A Cinq science and nature co-production, Reef Rescue (ARTE, CBC, NOVA, VULCAN) winner of Best Conservation Film Long Form at the Jackson Wild Media Awards 2020. Merit is currently producing the 2 x 1hr natural history series Kingdom of the Polar Bears (National Geographic Channels, France 3, CBC, Terra Mater, Canal D); Great Lakes (Smithsonian, TVO, Terra Mater); Everest Dark (CBC documentary Channel) and season 4 of Dr. Keri: Prairie Vet (Animal Planet). Other highlights include the Canadian Screen Award-winning films What Plants Talk About (CBC/PBS Nature), Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees nominated at Pariscience and the Canadian Screen Awards for Best Science and Nature Film, Turtle Beach (BBC, ARTE, Blue Ant, CBC) and Polar Bear Town (Smithsonian Channel US, OLN).

For media inquiries, please contact:

Ophélie Petit | Email: ophelie@meritmotionpictures.com | Tel: +1 (204) 775-4092