Art & Science

Museum of Underwater Sculpture Ayia Napa (MUSAN)

In May 2022, The Hellenic Centre for Marine Research released a report in the Mediterranean Marine Science Journal outlining the new records of rare species discovered within the Mediterranean Sea. Underwater photographer Costas Constantinou from Nicosia, Cyprus and Thodoros E. Kampouris from the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of the Aegean, submitted the supporting evidence of the first record of Scyllaea pelagica Linnaeus, 1758 (Nudibranchia, Scyllaeidae) to be sighted in Cyprus. In August 2021, seven individuals of Scyllaea pelagica were observed and photographed from 5 to 7m depth at the Museum of Underwater Sculpture Ayia Napa (MUSAN), at Pernera Beach, Cyprus. All specimens were found crawling over the recently stainless-steel underwater sculptures, which is an example of typical behaviour of the species.

Sponsoring Partnering Organisations: Municipality of Ayia Napa, Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, Ministry of Tourism.

The Coral Greenhouse

Coral gardening is an active reef restoration technique used to assist the recovery of coral reefs that have been degraded, damaged or destroyed. The process of coral gardening mirrors the discipline of silviculture in terrestrial environments. On land, gardeners take cuttings or seeds from mature plants, raise seedlings in a nursery before planting young trees in the desired location. On coral reefs, marine scientists take ‘cuttings’ of mature coral colonies, place them on a nursery for a husbandry period before replanting them in a new location. Researchers from Reef Ecologic are working with the Museum of Underwater Art  (MOUA) to create a special blend of art and science at Jason deCaires Taylor’s Coral Greenhouse on John Brewer Reef. The Coral Greenhouse symbolises a land based greenhouse enabling the planting of coral to enhance the aesthetic appeal and biodiversity of this artistic installation. Researchers collect fragments from coral colonies on the surrounding nearby reefs and transplant them into the art installation. The science team collect data on survival, growth and natural recruitment as well as aesthetics and visitor enjoyments to measure the social and ecological effect of the sculptures. Researchers mimic depth and aspect to ensure the target locations are similar to the areas that the original corals are sourced from. The confluence of art and science provides information to researchers on potential reef restoration techniques that may be implemented in other reef locations not only on the Great Barrier Reef but around the world. These collaborative installations help communicate complicated messages regarding reef health and enable people to see these techniques and ask questions leading to discussions around why we may need these types of interventions at all. As our natural ecosystems face ever greater challenges these creative approaches to raise awareness are critical to help inspire people to implement the changes need to support the health of our planet.

Sponsoring Partnering Organisations: Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA)

Collaborating Partners: Reef Ecologic

Jason deCaires Taylor Underwater Sculpture The Coral Greenhouse

Ocean Siren

Ocean Siren is a 4m-high illuminated sculpture modelled on Takoda Johnson, a young indigenous girl from the Wulgurukaba tribe. She is holding a traditional indigenous communication device, a Bayliss shell, and it is acting as a siren or warning signal that warm seas could be a risk to the Great Barrier Reef.

The sculpture celebrates the scientific and technological expertise of Townsville and the region. The live data feed provided by a 4G live internet connection to the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), relays water temperature data from a weather station installed at Davies Reef. Ocean Siren houses a matrix of 202 multi-coloured LED lights that are illuminated each day at sunset and gradually change colour from the centre of the figure to its extremities, similar in display to a heat sensing camera image. The sculpture is a visual representation of the current conditions out on the reef and can potentially warn of risks to coral reefs from warming seas.

Sponsoring Partnering Organisation: Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA)

Collaborating Partner: Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)

Jason deCaires Taylor Underwater Sculpture Ocean Siren

The Listener

Working with Ms. Heather Spence, marine biologist, Dr. Patricia Gray, Director of the BioMusic International Research at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and Colegio Ecab A.C, The Listener portrays a lone figure that is assembled entirely from casts of human ears molded during a workshop of local Cancun students aged 8-12. The sculpture, located at Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA) within the National Marine Park of Cancun, is fitted with a revolutionary NOAA-designed hydrophone, which is continually recording sounds from the reef environment and storing the data to an internal water resistant hard drive.

Although the marine environment is often referred to as the silent world, it is actually reverberating with a myriad of noises from crustaceans clicking, fish feeding, waves breaking to boats passing overhead. Sound also travels approximately four times faster in water than in air. This bioacoustic research method of non-invasive Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) will monitor some of complex sound activities taking place underwater and will advance our understanding of acoustic relationships while informing the science of conservation management. Click here for a sample recording from The Listener.

The form symbolises a passive relationship between humans and nature whilst aiming to engage local students in reef conservation and draw focus to the much-needed ability to listen.

Sponsoring Partnering Organisations: University of North Carolina-Greensboro, CONAMP.

Collaborating Partners: University of Hawaii, Universidad del Caribe, Proyecto Domino, Heather Spence.

Jason deCaires Taylor Underwater Sculpture The Listener

Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA)

Within Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA), Prof. Vivianne Solis-Weiss from the Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnologia, UNAM, studies the evolution of the flora and fauna that has colonised the sculptures created by Jason deCaires Taylor after they were immersed in 2010. 

After only a few months, microscopic life was documented at the museum. Purple incrusting algae began to prosper in the area, which was then followed by the introduction of at least another 15 different colourful species. It was observed that Lobophora variegata and Dictyota bartrayresii, where the dominant species growing throughout MUSA. 

The museum has attracted species of fauna that were similar to those found at the neighbouring coral reef area of Manchones. Populations of herbivores such as urchins, mollusks, and nudibranchs can be found living amongst the artworks with polychaetes accounting for 45% of the total fauna at MUSA. The environmental rugosity created by the sculptures enhance the settlement of this varied fauna and provide all they need to complete their life cycle. 

The marine current slowed by the sculptures, helps new recruits to settle easily. Hard Corals (hermatypic) were found to grow successfully after two years as well as Gorgonians. The algae began to be overtaken in some areas by the dominant sponge Amphimedon compressa, a pink, aggressive organism that easily overtakes other spieces including young corals.

Syllid Polychaete
Syllid Polychaete
Macrofauna within MUSA

Ocean Atlas

Since the installation of Ocean Atlas in 2014, the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) has grown the surrounding sculpture garden by integrating coral nurseries. One of the activities in place that supports coral propagation is providing opportunities to visitors to adopt a polyp, coral fragment or an entire coral head, which will be out-planted within the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden or on the nearby Andros Great Barrier Reef.

Sponsoring Partnering Organisations: Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF).

Ocean AtlasImage Credit: Shane Gross Courtesy of: Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation
Image Credit: Shane Gross Courtesy of: Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation