By: Andie Chan. I pressed my SCUBA mask to my face as I back rolled off a small catamaran into the warm tropical waters of the Florida Keys. It was my first time SCUBA diving for my Ph.D. research, and I was eager to prove myself. I was starting a project on increasing our understanding of the reproduction and population sizes of pillar corals using genetic techniques, so I needed to collect small pieces of tissue from multiple colonies to bring back to the lab at Penn State. Fortunately, pillar corals at this dive site in Key Largo were conspicuous and prevalent. I swam along a 60 meter stretch of upward-reaching colonies that looked almost furry with their tentacles moving in the current. With great care, I took a small amount of tissue from several colonies to minimize wounding these animals – many of which were likely hundreds of years old.