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Coral Reef Relief - Danielle Dixson

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

Meet Dr. Danielle Dixson

Marine Biologist, Associate Professor of Marine Science at University of Delaware

This Project: Build coral reef starter kits with a 3D printer

When Dr. Danielle Dixson was a kid, her parents took her to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. That day she met a marine biologist working. He gave her a book when she answered an ocean question. Danielle decided at that minute to become a marine biologist. One problem. She couldn't swim. But Danielle never gave up the dream. In college, she held her breath and signed up to learn how to swim . . . at the same time she learned to scuba dive.

"I was a weird kid who decided to be a marine biologist, even though I couldn't swim."

Danielle has worked on many projects to protect our oceans. One current project is protecting coral reefs. Reefs made by coral are important. They protect the land and everything that lives there from crashing waves. They create a safe place for fish to raise their young. Millions of people rely on the reefs for fishing. Millions more have jobs that rely on the tourists who come to experience the beauty and wonder of the reefs.

Coral are related to anemones (where Nemo and his dad lived). They both have soft bodies. They both let algae live in their skin. That algae makes about half of the food corals and anemones eat. They get the other half by eating tiny ocean animals, zooplankton.

But corals do something amazing. They build a hard skeleton around themselves. It is almost like a home, made of bone. Thousands of corals live together to make a reef.

Danielle saw that some coral reefs were wrecked by ocean storms with giant waves. We know that oceans are warming because of climate change. That means bigger storms. It means more storms. Danielle decided to help the corals.

With the help of a 3D printer, Danielle is making fake coral reefs. She plants the reefs with pieces of living coral reef.

Danielle's 3D-printed coral
3D Printer

Over many years, the living coral will grow over the fake coral. It will take a long time. Coral only grows about 1 cm per year, less than ½ inch. But the fake, printed coral reef can protect the fish during that time. Danielle is helping the coral to do what they do best – grow and thrive in the ocean.

If you want to know more, watch this video interview of Danielle.

Danielle writes picture books about her research too! You can find them in libraries here.

Here is one of her books.

In this book, Buddy the Butterflyfish eats some yucky-tasting coral. His family will have to move if they’re going to find better food. But then they discover a group of secret agent unicornfish whose job is to eat the seaweed and make sure the coral stays delicious for other sea creatures!

Read these books about coral reefs . . .


Browse your library shelves in 577 category for books on water ecology.

by Kate Messner

Growing up, Ken Nedimyer enjoyed watching Jacques Cousteau on TV, snorkeling in the Florida Keys, and maintaining the many aquariums in his bedroom. One hot summer when he was older, he noticed that the coral reefs he loved were dying. Years later, operating a live rock farm (growing invertebrates such as algae and sponges for aquariums), Ken and his daughter tried a new idea: gluing small coral colonies to limestone surfaces that had once supported a healthy reef. The transported coral grew, reproduced, and flourished, offering hope for reef restoration around the world.

Visit author Kate Messner’s web page at or visit her Amazon author page.


by Jason Chin

During an ordinary visit to the library, a girl pulls a not-so-ordinary book from the shelves. As she turns the pages in this book about coral reefs, the city around her slips away and she finds herself surrounded by the coral cities of the sea and the mysterious plants and animals that live, hunt, and hide there.

Visit author/illustrator Jason Chin’s Facebook page or visit his Amazon author page.


by Maris Wick

In Coral Reefs, we learn all about these tiny, adorable sea animals! This absorbing look at ocean science covers the biology of coral reefs as well as their ecological importance. Nonfiction comics genius Maris Wicks brings to bear her signature combination of hardcore cuteness and in-depth science.

Visit author/illustrator Maris Wick’s web page or visit her Amazon author page.


. . . and watch these videos.


Watch this video about the history and science of coral reefs.

Photo Credits

Danielle Dixson: pending

Coral Reef and Fish: This Photo licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

Diagram of coral: This Photo is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

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