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‘Chasing Coral’ star visits Golden High School

Students learn firsthand about a career in science


Zack Rago loves coral.

“I could sit here and talk to you about them forever,” he said to about 300 Golden High School students on March 21. “But they’re in trouble.”

Rago, 25, of Arvada visited the high school to share his real-world career experiences of his work with coral reefs — in particular his work on the 2017 documentary “Chasing Coral.”

Golden High School is one of about 50 schools across the country that Rago has spoken at within the past year. He visited a number of Boulder County schools, a few in the Denver Public Schools district and is scheduled to speak at a school in Douglas County. In Jeffco, he spoke at high schools in Arvada and Lakewood.

At Golden High School, his presentation was incorporated into the climate change unit part of the earth science class, said Britt Ramsay, a science teacher at the school. Most of the audience were ninth-graders, she said, but a few were in grades 10-12.

“The students really benefited by getting to meet somebody who’s made a career out of science,” Ramsay said.

“Chasing Coral” is a film directed by Jeff Orlowski that documents the changing coral reef ecosystems and why they are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists, in addition to the support of about 500 people around the world, were involved with the film. It took about three years to film it. More than 500 hours were spent underwater and the film includes footage from more than 30 countries.

Rago is a key cast member in the documentary.

“The corals are the main character,” Rago said, “but I’m the main human character.”

The students watched the film about a month ago and thought of Rago like a movie star visiting their school, Ramsay said.

“They were excited to get the opportunity to meet him and ask him questions,” she said.

The students prepared thoughtful questions ahead of time to ask him, Ramsay said.

One question came from ninth-grader Alycia Mausser. She asked Rago for his opinion on what scientists are doing to help save coral reefs.

“I wanted to see, from a scientist’s perspective, what they think is going right, what’s wrong and what they want to see happen better,” Mausser said. “It was an honor to be able to hear what he had to say in person.”

Rago is a 2011 graduate of Pomona High School in Arvada, and continued his education at the University of Colorado-Boulder where he earned a degree in evolutionary biology and ecology. He worked in the marine aquarium industry for four years and eventually took his passion to work with View Into The Blue — an underwater webcam system that can be utilized by the public, industries, resorts, educational facilities and researchers.

He is dedicated to engaging youth through various outreach and is involved with Teens4Oceans, a Boulder-based nonprofit that provides youth with the tools and resources to become ocean stewards.

“The purpose of this project was to communicate science,” Rago said of “Chasing Coral.”

Science is all about spending time working with others who are passionate about the same things that you are, he said to the high schoolers during his presentation.

“And part of the fun of science,” Rago added, “is that there’s curve balls thrown at you all the time.”


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