Using advanced analytical chemistry techniques, Lawson and her colleagues are working to identify the spectrum of volatile chemicals the corals produce under different conditions. All living things release volatile chemicals, and many species have adopted specific volatiles as communicative signals. “We are playing catch-up to the terrestrial world because it’s slightly harder to work underwater than on land,” Lawson says. So she and her colleagues are studying the range of volatile chemicals produced in the marine environment, and they’re starting with corals. In a recent study, the scientists described how they detected 87 volatile chemicals being dispersed by two species of coral, Acropora intermedia and Pocillopora damicornis.