Coral reefs provide stunning images of a world under assault

MIAMI: Humans don’t know what they’re missing under the surface of a busy shipping channel in the “cruise capital of the world”. Just below the keels of massive ships, an underwater camera provides a live feed from another world, showing marine life that’s trying its best to resist global warming.

That camera in Miami’s Government Cut is just one of the many ventures of a marine biologist and a musician who have been on a 15-year mission to raise awareness about dying coral reefs by combining science and art to bring undersea life into pop culture.

Their company — Coral Morphologic — is surfacing stunning images, putting gorgeous closeups of underwater creatures on social media, setting time-lapsed video of swaying, glowing coral to music and projecting it onto buildings, even selling a coral-themed beachwear line.

“We aren’t all art. We aren’t all science. We aren’t all tech. We are an alchemy,” said Colin Foord, who defies the looks of a typical scientist, with blue hair so spiky that it seems electrically charged. He and his business partner JD McKay sat down with The Associated Press to show off their work.

One of their most popular projects is the Coral City Camera, which recently passed 2 million views and usually has about 100 viewers online at any given time each day.

“We’re going to actually be able to document one year of coral growth, which has never been done before in situ on a coral reef, and that’s only possible because we have this technological connection right here at the port of Miami that allows us to have power and internet,” Foord said.

The livestream has already revealed that staghorn and other corals can adapt and thrive even in a highly urbanized undersea environment, along with 177 species of fish, dolphins, manatees and other sea life, Foord said.

“We have these very resilient corals growing here. The primary goal of us getting it underwater was to show people there is so much marine life right here in our city,” Foord said.

McKay, meanwhile, sounds like a Broadway producer as he describes how he also films the creatures in their Miami lab, growing coral in tanks to get them ready for closeups in glorious color.

“We essentially create a set with one of these aquariums, and then obviously there’s actors — coral or shrimp or whatever — and then we film it, and then I get a vibe, whatever might be happening in the scene, and then I soundtrack it with some ambient like sounds, something very oceanic,” McKay explained.