New Year Cycles

Happy New Year! Politics aside, 2017 is off to a good start.

DCIM100GOPRO
A bit further out from Zoe are some patches of corals

The last days of 2016 and the first week of 2017 were filled with special endings and beginnings, just the way solstice likes it as we consider longer days. I know, I’m in Mexico with more sun than most, but I still love to take this time of year to be grateful, let go and make space for what’s to grow in spring. We had a beautiful intimate ceremony to honor Zoe Anderson with corals at the sculpture. Happened to be the BUSIEST day of the year at the dive shop, but the guests of honor were true grace and acceptance de la vida loca. We created a circle of memory holding hands in the sea and placing some new corals with great intentions for life. Beautiful meaningful moments together.

Here you can see a few of the corals added, burgundy algae, and some sponges taking residence.

On New Year’s Eve some more magic happened. My Air BnB guest invited me to join her with a few friends who just so happen to work with National Geographic and were heading to Cozumel to celebrate birthdays and vacation. Nice. We had a super time diving at Zoe and another reef thanks to Sand Dollar Sports Dive Shop. They’re excited to see how they can help support more coral restoration efforts and the Zoe project through explorer programs, so stay tuned! From eating chips and guacamole to talking about Emerging Explorers made for a fortuitous New Year’s Eve.

To add more to the mix, Shaan Hurley of Autodesk came down with his drone and joined our diving adventure, too. Can’t wait to see his underwater and aerial shots. He was here in 2014 training university students (UNAM) and government scientists in photogrammetry.

And here you have a little cockpit view from January 2nd when our #OpenROV, Patito, made its maiden voyage into the sea. Fun! Our Expedition is here.

Thanks again for being on this adventure and making it happen! With love and hope into the new year.

This post was the latest update for our current razoo campaign. Please check it out to learn more about our goals and how you can join in.

Also, if you are a scientist and want to work on some of our Zoe research, including lab tests, in the field, equipment, longterm and short term,…reach out to misssnailpail@gmail.com. From water quality to biodiversity counts to coral skeleton porosity, electromagnetic fields, photo documentation, there are lots of things to discover!

 

Transplanting Coral

Please grow here Porites polyps!
Please grow here Porites polyps!

I published my first Instructable!! I was wanting to, meaning to, and finally, DID IT! I enjoyed it, and even more, I feel so happy to finally be finding my way to share more through the one-to-many approach. One-to-one is slow going when you are dealing with process, such as art, science, and tech to rehabilitate corals and experiment with new transformational innovation. Online tutorials and communities are obviously an organic, inspiring way to build the movement and momentum, to reach people ready and open to join in from wherever they may be.

Are you familiar with Adafruit?  When I heard Limor Fried speak on a panel at an entrepreneur conference in NY 2013, she touched a harmonic cord. At first she may have tried to focus on “her projects,” but she had to go with the flow and let go of trying to control the river, the ocean. Ladyada is contributing so much to culture, innovation, art, technology and creativity. Her specific goal is not welfare of wildlife and the environment, but with her products and open source, we can make leaps.

When people ask me to help them with mineral accretion projects, I hesitate about the voltage and set up because in my experiments, I don’t yet feel like I have a “kit” or component, open source element that will be the needed baseline for people to run with seawater electrolysis. This year with Zoe finally in the sea, I can devote more time towards building the global community and constructing new unique reefs that unite aesthetics and function customized for their location.

It would be a dream to work with the likes of Healthy Reefs and Coral Reef Alliance in Honduras to regenerate devastated coral reefs using state of the art design and generative tools, equipment, coral science, and bright impulses of imagination. We need MORE CREATIVITY FLOWING through ingenious teams who like to play and share their wide knowledge to impact the next generation of coral cultivators and ocean healers.

I just applied for my dream art residency to push these goals forward. I really want to tell you who offers this amazing residency, yet I don’t want to jinks it! I’ll let you know what happens.

Last preparations before installing Zoe in the sea
Last preparations before installing Zoe in the sea

ONWARD! #givingtuesday #razoogivingtuesday16

Swimming past the livestreaming webcam
Swimming past the livestreaming webcam                                                        photo Colleen Flanigan

With the US presidential election making rough and freaky waves through the world of environmental and human rights, and everything else, I had to do something to lighten my heart and mind NOW. Usually that means I have to throw myself into work and focus. The sinking feeling and clawing at my eyeballs through the tears gets tiring.

I started this campaign today! Zoe – A Living Sea Sculpture is part of the #givingtuesday annual event which builds momentum and funds for causes at the end of the year.

Zoe within the 1st month
Zoe within the 1st month                                                                                   photo Colleen Flanigan

It feels wonderful to share the completion of our installation phase and the vision for monitoring, maintaining, and developing this project for the region and beyond.

Through this international collaboration, we want to help transform the destructive tourism practices locally in Cozumel and bring new creative energy for regeneration and biodiversity cultivation. Already the Sand Dollar Sports Dive Shop and others are moving that forward. Please check out our progress and plans here.

UPDATE : we only need to raise an additional $9450 by year end to receive our $12,500 matching grant from The Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature. That will bring us to our $25000 goal!

 

Zoe is in the SEA!!!

After 5 days of electrolysis
After 5 days of electrolysis

On Sept 8, 2016, we received our final signature from the government to install Zoe in an incredible home. Zoe touched the seafloor in Cozumel, Mexico on September 23, 2016.

Plans to be part of MUSA in Cancún were blocked due to challenges with our electrical and internet needs. Unlike the cement sculptures, Zoe requires more infrastructure.

Huge thanks to Ingmar Gonzalez Krotzsch for introducing me to Cozumel and uniting an incredible team! He envisioned exactly where it would go and – voilá! Isabel Caamaño Ricken, our brilliant coral biologist, applied for the final permit, along with her inventor brother, Pancho (Francisco) who together have a manifestation to place sculptures into this unique coral restoration lab and underwater art museum, Musubo. This Underwater Golden Diver Museum is a featured attraction of the annual Scuba Fest, organized by Gilda Sigie, who warmly invited Zoe to come to life in this special place.

Coral reef restoration installed in Cozumel
Zoe is in there!

Zoe is now in good company with bronze busts of Sylvia Earle, Jacques Cousteau, Ramón Bravo, and numerous Fractal Artificial Reefs and Reef Balls. Since 2006, the site aims to increase biodiversity and investigate coral regeneration after devastation from hurricanes and pollution. Sand Dollar Sports Dive Shop owner and project internet+electricity sponsor, John Flynn, and his dive guides want to reduce negative tourism impact on the natural reefs through rehabilitation and ecological recreation programs. You’ll see corals colonizing Zoe soon!

Qualti Innovaciones Marinas did a fabulous job installing with their hurricane-proof patented anchors. It was an underwater performance watching Laura and Pancho work skillfully in silent tandem. Thomas Sarkisian, electrical engineer from Global Coral Reef Alliance, has been awaiting over 5 years to turn on the electricity. Right after the switch was flipped on September 29th, the minerals began to deposit and fish started to arrive to eat the algae. YEA!!!

First two fish visiting coral reef restoration project
Our first two visitors

The marinero and capitán were key with the placement of Zoe and the camera into the sea. Here you see Pancho and Thomas preparing the Tilt Pan Zoom View into the Blue Camera to begin livestreaming. Trevor Mendelow has been configuring remotely with Danirel Alvarez Junco of Sand Dollar and the dedicated crew of Soluciones Xtreme Net who laid and wired our cables…a big production!

Blue Camera being installed in Cozumel coral reef restoration project
Blue Camera live stream being installed

My great great thanks to ALL OF YOU, my dear backers for being with me since the very beginning in 2011, and to the hundreds, thousands of others I’ve met along the journey that made this possible! Your contributions kept us going and the sheer number of you was constant motivation!!!!

new installation bio-rock coral reef restoration project Cozumel
October 4th, I took so many photos 🙂

You must come to the island to snorkel or dive. Only a 40 minute ferry ride from Playa Del Carmen (close to Cancún). Zoe is about 4m deep and open to the public. Very calm water and an ideal place to get certified in diving if thinking about it? Snorkeling is fine!

The water is crystal clear and fabulous for viewing our livestream. Content is underway for Zoecoral.com site built by amazing TED Fellow, longtime tech consultant and Zoe collaborator, Jen Indovina!

Many special thanks to my loving family, Luis Bourillón, Marisol Rueda Flores, José Luis Funes, Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, Serguei Rico, María Antonia Gonzalez, Lorenzo Rosenzweig Pasquel (FMCN), Lyn Ohala, TEDxCancún, Soluciones Xtreme Net, Staff of Sand Dollar Sports Dive Shop and Sunset Restaurant, Andrés Uscanga, Yibrán Aragón, Marenter, Todo Inoxidable, Infectango, SupporTED, Autodesk, Shaan Hurley, INapesca, UNAM, Cable Cozumel, the black bunny that just hopped by, and every friend, collaborator, acquaintance, coach not listed here who offered help, kindness, direction, mentoring, introductions, dancing, food, fun!!!

ALL of YOU are the reason. Logramos! Next phase, monitoring and colonizing ~~~

With love and fishes, Colleen and Living Sea Sculpture

Scrawled File Fish visiting Zoe coral reef restoration Cozumel

To follow on Facebook; twitter @livingseasculpt

Here to contribute to the monitoring, sensors, and maintenance

Luz Verde for Zoe

It’s happening! I’m sitting outside using some wifi in Puerto Morelos while all the puzzle pieces are Tetrising (verb) into place to install Zoe in Cozumel sea by month’s end. So exciting to be working with such an incredible crew. Here are just a few from Qualti Innovaciones Marinas who worked on the authorization with the government and will be responsible for installation with the rest of the US and Swedish team coming in on Wednesday.

Qualti Innovaciones Marinas

Last Wednesday was a quiet moment of joy relief happy peace to watch Zoe be moved for the first time since 2011 from her waiting place in Punta Sam, Cancún back to Todo Inoxidable (steel factory) where we built her in 2011.

IMG_3007 (1)

Tomorrow we’ll make some quick fixes and changes so we can ferry her over to Cozumel end of week. Yea!

I’m being eaten by mosquitoes, so will be brief! (A couple friends have Zika, not good). It has taken an incredible amount of people to get this far, and my gratitude is running over.

Very happy that after more than 5 years, we have a super location and home for this Living Sea Sculpture. And you will be able to view it and interact from the livestreaming webcam!

Scouting el Sitio

Hola!

Scouting installation site in Punta Nizuc. photo courtesy of Ray Santisteban

I arrived here in Quintana Roo on December 28th. I wanted to experience my first Mexican New Year’s Eve, an advance celebration of ZOE installation into el mar. Date still to be determined, but as director, manager, producer, artist, my job is to find eternal internal resources to keep saying, “We aim to install __________ .” (put upcoming month in the blank.)

It’s a huge country, so I won’t generalize my New Year’s Eve on the beach and roaming through streets of Playa Del Carmen with new local friends as representative of Mexico, but it was a special moment to release the floating fire-lit balloon into the sky with Grecia Goretty, Ricardo Rubio, and Gerar Orozko Astigarraga envisioning what I hope the new year holds. Looking up to the stars into the past present future with wonder and soft sand between my toes, I watched my wishes dissolve into the dark sky.  About six hours later, I welcomed the first red rays glazing the sea.

New Year’s Dawn. photo Colleen Flanigan

Yesterday I went with Raymundo Santisteban of The Stills to measure distances for the underwater installation of ZOE and to take photos and video of the area for our team and supporters. The location for the sculpture will be about 100 meters from the dock at Nizuc Resort and Spa.

Looking towards the resort. photo Colleen Flanigan

The water was really clear for us to see the natural reef close to the installation site. This is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the 2nd largest barrier reef after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Coral Reef at Nizuc Resort and Spa. photo Colleen Flanigan

These native corals represent species we’ll be transplanting onto the coral refuge. It’s a pretty subdued palette, think conservative, fashionable interior decor, including some porites porites, gorgonians, staghorn and elkhorn, among others. The fish spending their time here will come swim by our habitat, too. Not only is ZOE for coral, it will attract many species of marine life looking for new homes where coral reefs have been disappearing. Reefs provide habitat for 25%-30% of marine species, so providing life support for them and reducing deadly environmental stressors, like pollution, is essential to the health of the entire ocean.

ZOE will attract these and other fish. photo Colleen Flanigan

 

 

 

IMC exhibit

Respire 1.0 our first prototype
Respire 1.0 our first prototype

From the opening reception of the exhibit, TrashTara: It Starts with an Inhale on November 6th, until the closing reception on December 2nd, the Co-Create residency with James Tunick at THE IMC LAB + GALLERY continued in the backdrop. Unlike conventional gallery spaces, the 6th floor venue is a mixed-use morphing environment for artists and a few other small businesses to share. The Respire prototype and immersive installation truly gained a life of its own as James added interactive audio and visuals of data and living reefs projected onto the wall, ceiling, and kinetic sculpture.

Fellow artist-in-residence, Dan Baker’s, hanging art pieces made of retrieved plastic from local waterways were synced with data streams from an Alaskan tidal buoy in preparation for his upcoming exhibit, Ebb and Flow. A monitor showing the tides looked like an EKG. Though conceived separately, they added naturally to the concept and sensory media exploration. I brought over a small mineral accretion experiment I was working on at NYU in Natalie Jeremijenko’s XClinic to directly link coral health and innovation elements visually and physically to participants.

5 Gallon mineral accretion tank at IMC

Motion tracking was triggering the inhales and exhales of the Respire sculpture. The  electricity to the biorock mineral accretion tank was on the same outlet, so anyone moving in the space activated or deactivated the electricity; it was like watching life support go on and off. When the sculpture was idle, black and white images from iron lung artificial respiration projected onto the sculpture representing the bleached state of coral and the need for human action to restore vitality and prevent increased mortality. James and I will continue R&D to evolve the project, tying interactivity and effects more intimately with climate change, coral restoration and life support, and interdependent interspecies health.

And what about TrashTara? I had proposed to produce video and photos from my excursions to receive an LMCC grant. My first experience editing with final cut pro, it was a sweet feeling to observe the raw results, far from pro but close to my heart. Colby Cannon, Rob Bregman, and Dan Baker all gave me some quick tutorials. I grabbed poignant GoPro clips from my street outings together with some footage of me collecting butts day and night. Watching my selected snips of documentation linked together randomly led to a meaningful string of spontaneous interactions I had with people throughout Manhattan. I knew people would be receptive to cigarette butt recycling and pollution conversations if they were first uplifted by someone in a costume embodying a compassionate artwork. The face to face experience and kind moments were proof that impressions and attitude, perceptions and expectations are always operating consciously and subconsciously. Everything about the experience was socially enlightening for me and others, and hardly anyone I met knew that they could recycle butts in New Jersey at TerraCycle.

From EVGrieve blog post by Andrew (no last name)
TrashTara’s Butt Brigade Poster made in collaboration with Colby Cannon

The photo I used is from Scotland a few years ago when I was intrigued with arty butt shots before I was thinking about how that tiny remnant could harm marine life. NOTE:  I WANT $1 (or more!) to go towards coral restoration, but it is an ideal not yet real. Something to work towards.

ZOE looks ahead in the midst of spawning and pollution

Aerial view of Gulf of Mexico

I opened my window just as we were flying over Punta Nizuc where we plan to install ZOE. There is a lot of ocean in the photo, but I was so focused on Punta Nizuc, it was a great surprise to see the reefs and aqua clear waters where we plan to put our coral refuge. Without Google-Earthing, I could get an idea of the broader seascape of the area. We plan to locate ZOE near the resort in shallow waters.  There are species of corals that like being very close to the surface.  Actually, while snorkeling in the area, the healthiest coral reefs seemed to be in the shallows.

Not far out from the dock is the site where we will anchor the sculpture.  The rest of my August visit entailed meetings with the Director of the Marine Park and the MUSA directors, as well as scientists at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México (UNAM) in Puerto Morelos to develop our proposal for a scientific research collaboration between Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP) and UNAM.  Growth monitoring is our main focus, as well as observing differences between neighboring natural corals and those on the Biorock® mineral accretion reef.

Autodesk has generously offered to come to Mexico to train us in their latest photogrammetry process, the cutting edge in 3D digital modelling.  They’ll train me, my team, including a group of university students, in how to capture the photos of our coral transplants and neighboring corals.

Coral scientist, Serguei Rico of UNAM, is working with me on our proposal to ensure ZOE is a conservation experimental project of the National Marine Park as well as a tourism attraction for MUSA.  He was telling me that another PhD student wants to start experimenting with taking photos to digitally model corals for monitoring coral growth as his thesis. As he was describing it, I couldn’t help but jump in and tell him that part of the project was to offer free training for just that! Perfecto.

Serguei has been following how corals have been effected by nitrogen run-off and other pollutants since the emergence of mega-tourism. Sewage from all those hotels along the Hotel Zone in Cancun and down the Riviera Maya is deep injected. It seeps into the aquifers and ocean causing corals to suffer new diseases.  There were only 3 inhabitants on Isla Cancún in 1970. Now there are over 722,000. With no treatment plants, you can see how this is an epic problem with all that untreated shit running into the sea. Corals are much more sensitive to the bacteria in sewage than humans, and the parts per million are well-beyond their standards.

While I was in Mexico this trip, I witnessed baby turtles being released on a full moon. (next post.) I wish I could’ve joined the small group of scientists watching corals spawn at night, but they want to protect the animals while they are making babies from too many intrusive people. I understand needing more privacy, and wanting to avoid the potential for humans to get crowded and bump into the reefs.

Sunset before spawning
Spawning gives a smokey milky appearance. Acropora Palmata aka Elkhorn Coral.
Endangered corals spawning in August, 2014

Spawning photos are from PN Costa Occidental de Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancún y Punta Nizuc.

The dream to plant some corals onto ZOE is getting closer to being realized.  Working with the scientists, meeting the resort manager, connecting with other artists who want to be part of the local team to install and create future works…It was a wonderful process and we took many steps forward.

Look closely and you can see where we plan to install as soon as we do.

 

 

 

 

Too shallow? Can this be true?!

Putting our heads together to solve the latest puzzle: Nizuc Resort and Spa is ready to house ZOE. Yea!! They want to celebrate it, publicize, make it quite happy with simple swank elegant parties for people of taste. Any issues with guests having to wear weird shaming bracelets to snorkel a few meters can be worked out with the government.
Cool! this is easy and delightful somehow, I’m thinking. And feels pretty loving, reminiscent of the blissful dream I had just before waking in which Roberto Diaz (pictured), Pres. of MUSA/manager of Aquaworld, was wearing a robe from the same fabric as a dress I got for this trip. We had our heads together in the dream and the feeling was that we were in love. Not IN LOVE like hot-I-want-YOU love, but that comfort that our hearts and minds, souls and hopes were wanting things to happen for the better of culture and conservation however that plays out. Somehow we were “wearing” our synergy.Cut to snorkeling – wow, this is damn shallow. Let’s just walk around on the sandy seafloor a bit figuring how to make the sculpture shrink or the sea level rise a bit faster. Not quite that shallow, but not much higher than the 2M of ZOE. How can we make this deeper? Clearly that IS the problem with this place.  Gena Bezanilla, Executive Director of MUSA, was on the boat with us imagining how ZOE would look if it was half-size.  Possible?

OK, let’s all swim around the other sculptures in MUSA, look at all pros and cons of this resort, and put Colleen in a BOB tomorrow to see if that area of Punta Cancun where there are already approved plans for a 3rd exhibition gallery for MUSA might be perfect for ZOE. It’s 18′ deep, aqua blue waters, snorkeling and diving, and the Park wants to regenerate corals in the area that was hit hard by Hurricane Wilma. (Apparently a 400 ton sunken ship was torn in half and thrown 100M. Serious Act of God.)

Roberto told me so much about his adventures since starting MUSA with Jaime and Jason in 2009. The moral of this very longass FB post: do it because you love it, Colleen. There is no glory, often no thanks, and who wants to be a quitter? Roberto is also a sculptor with a piece in the museum. I’m grateful for his sensitive, generous far-seeing soul. (She says before getting on an underwater scooter with a bubble on her head. I’ll let you know if I feel so warm fuzzy tomorrow.)

BOB Aquaworld Adventures in Cancun

Made it to Cancun

Made it to Cancun! Room 2509 on the playa at Celuisma Dos Playas while they fix a water explosion thingy problem in my room on lagoon side for couple days. Variety. love that…the stolen/lost credit card hardly noticeable. No kidding, the Hotel Zone has swaddled me in its humid party of all-inclusivo-except-for-this-but-look-we’re-gonna-give-you-THIS! adventure already. Tomorrow is big meeting at 10AM. Feeling GOOD!! and so happy when I realized the little white car that wouldn’t open with my keys was the other little white car next to mine.

This was first time flying standby in maybe 20 years? Very exciting to have to keep hopping from gate to gate working with the airlines in New York to try and ensure I would catch one of only 2 flights to Cancun from either Philadelphia, PA, or Charlotte, NC.  Luckily, I was able to find the right navigators with US Airways to complete travels in 13 hours.  And it really didn’t seem that long, thanks to all the little hits of adrenaline and willful concentration.  Off to find ZOE’s ocean home and the many people that will be working with me in Mexico.

 

 

 

we have moved next door!

Heading to Cancun Thursday. Time to mark the spot for ZOE’s ocean home at Nizuc Resort and Spa. Here’s one visitor’s view.

From DNA-Dividing at Club Med to ZOE at Nizuc Resort and Spa, transformation is on.  To get you up to speed – see the Living Sea Sculpture cover photo above? That is ZOE awaiting installation in Punta Nizuc from 2011. We were going to install off the beach of Club Med. Since Nizuc Resort and Spa only opened in 2013, they were not an option back in 2011. Timing!!

Roberto Diaz of both MUSA and Aquaworld (he’s a major doer) has been making things happen, and the government is being towed along with approving grace.  Cheers to Roberto!

And big thanks to María Antonia Gonzáles Valeria who I met here in NY at a Genspace event. She went back to Mexico City to see how she could help through her university, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).  She introduced me to a recent marine biology graduate focusing on corals in Pueto Morelos, Serguei Rico, who is ready to meet and see how we can work to appropriately appropriate enough coral transplants for installation with his department.  This is a big deal in Mexico – making sure we have the approvals since it is in a National Park protected area; corals are only available for projects after hurricanes, damage by boats, and through lab propagation.  I look forward to working with Serguei and Jaime, Director of the Marine Park, to ensure ZOE becomes a Living Sea Sculpture with endangered corals colonizing.

Steps!! More soon!

Pollution-less

Whenever you think of coral reefs dying, think of what types of pollution you are creating and you have a reverse recipe to really help. Just do that less.

 

Fire! Fire! Corals are Feeling the Heat!

Fire escape on 6th and Ave A

I wanted to make an art installation on 6th street here in New York’s East Village.  Using the Gossamer community crocheted and needle-felted reef, I would attach the textile corals and fish to the white undulating fire escapes, like Biorock sculptures, and project video of underwater coral reefs onto the building.  Live music would play.  Perhaps the instrumentalists would be on different levels of the fire escapes immersed in their steel boats adrift like such unusual organisms populating the sea.

So many ideas and projects run through me all the time related to corals and how to convey their beauty and their endangerment, their need for life support and healthy habitat, and of course, OUR need for them.  When my dog walks me down a new street, it often seems as if he’s guiding me to a place or a thing to spark my imagination that unites urban life with nature’s presence, such as the idea I just described for Fire! Fire! Corals are Feeling the Heat!

What about an app that responds to your geolocations, where it appears that fire escapes, bridges, and other inspiring architectural forms are accreting with minerals, colonizing with corals or oysters, and marine life?  I really want to put my energy into creating the living sculptural reefs and nurseries in the ocean, but while I’m in the city, I can’t turn off my inner vision of all this aquatic fluid atmosphere that permeates my mind.  And once we get the webcams onto the sculpture, ZOE, in Cancun, the resulting projections and live feeds will tie in positively to this evolving land and sea revival experience that will hopefully lead us away from this grim end as described by scientist, Charlie Veron, in Iain McCalman’s new book – The Reef:  A Passionate History (reviewed by Rob Nixon in the NY Sunday Times)

Without an abrupt decline in greenhouse gas emissions, “there is no hope of reefs surviving to even midcentury in any form that we now recognize. If, and when, they go, they will take with them about one-third of the world’s marine biodiversity.” Bearing witness to this gradual annihilation, Veron concludes, is “like seeing a house on fire in slow motion.”

A consuming conflagration metaphor.  I can’t have Veron’s prediction take hold in my mind or it throws me off center and off my positive focused trajectory, but perhaps politicians, businesses, big corporations, and anyone unaware of the true bottom line, will start to listen and begin cleaning up dirty industry if a renowned scientist points this gun, already smoking, to their heads, threatening their homes with this horrifying image.

If the message stating that all is already lost gets louder than the message inviting you to think of how to get involved, what effect does that have on you?  What combination of lightness with darkness motivates shifts in behavior and values?  I can’t tell you how many times I meet someone who assumes corals are doomed based on hearing snips about bleaching and acidification. They smile and share personal stories or offer strategy when I tell them that from pollution to restoration, there are things that CAN be done. It isn’t time to pretend the house is already burnt to the ground and just stand there drinking beer on the sidelines like you might be doing this month watching the World Cup.  (What a finish for Portugal last night tying in the last seconds!)

Seriously, Veron does say “slow motion,” and that’s an opening for optimism in the midst of despair.  If that somehow gives the endangered animals more time to adapt and people more time to develop new energy, rescue activities, and to stop injecting sewage, fertilizer, and carbon into the sea, it remains to be seen what 2050 holds.  My concept of the fire escapes with the corals growing over was to symbolize both the urgency and the potential to escape the heating oceans caused by climate change.  To find a way out of the burning building into the air to survive the disaster.

Reef Madness

Additional note for perspective, I recently read the book, Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral.  The “coral reef problem” illuminated how recently we had no idea about how coral reefs are formed, and it intimately illustrates just how controversial and political scientific theories and quests can be, then and now.  How egos take the stage and discoveries are intertwined with layered cultural and societal beliefs and systems.  Some philosophies and styles are in the process of dying off; it’s like new species of understanding, expressing, and technology emerge with evolution and that directly impacts our ability to see and discern our reality. Even though corals create bone-like stone, our ideas and assertions about them are much less solid.  There’s space in the world to explore working together to escape the “fires of hell” and create cooler, collaborative coral conservatories that will teach us much more than we know now.

 

Turtles Tortugas in Akumal Bay

"ZOE" at Puerto Cancun 2011. Photo by Mike Gerzevitz.

I was recently in Mexico again. From Cancun to Akumal to Isla Mujeres, I was working on clearing our way to install the DNA-inspired sculpture into the ocean.  I brought a friend and technical adviser, Jennifer Indovina of Tenrehte, along to help me scout out the best locations for wifi and power sources since we are now going to be adding webcams to this coral, fish, and biodiversity refuge.  She is building a custom website so you will be able to watch the evolution of the coral reef ecosystem as a virtual aquarium.

I rented a camera to capture some of the underwater life and to document potential sites for this sculpture or possibly future ones.  We were swimming out from shore to look at the set up for the TurtleCams they have in Akumal Bay,

TurtleCams power supply - A View into the Blue and teens4Oceans project in collaboration with Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA)

and that’s when green turtles began to appear right below us.  They were grazing on the sea grasses. I didn’t know what to expect of their behavior.  They had a very casual easygoing style.  From my short experience observing, I’d say they are calm, mildly curious, and like to socialize with their other grazing companions.  When they swam up to the surface for gulps of air, they glided like graceful, slow-flying birds.  They seem like gentle beasts that have become trusting from so many tourists, yet are not interested in interacting in any way.

Busy finding food under the butts of each other and saddled with scavenging fish on their backs and bellies, the turtles brought peaceful inspiration as I admired their beautiful shells and daily activities.

Swimming in Akumal Bay. Photo by Colleen Flanigan.

The area needs a new sewage treatment plant, which is one of the reasons the water gets so murky. If you visit the Yucatan Peninsula and stay at a hotel, ask the managers if they deep inject their sewage.  Long story, but water treatment is a huge issue in Mexico. Corals are much more sensitive to certain pollutants than humans. The movie, Angel Azul by Marcy Cravat, does a beautiful job sharing about the pollution through the intersection of art and science working for the environment in the underwater museum, MUSA.  She started with the story of artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, and like any good detective, she followed emerging clues, piecing together a puzzling and illuminating truth about our unsustainable systems and areas ripe for transformation.

It has been almost 3 years since we made the DNA sculpture in Cancun, so it was slightly bittersweet (chocolate) to see the steel sculpture making cameos in the background at Puerto Cancun as Jason’s and other cement sculptures were being deployed by boat. More sweet than bitter, actually, since I was so moved by the excellent filmmaking and knowing all the people and places in it.  It made things even more real. I’m committed to completing this project and to growing relationships in the region through this journey.  The sculpture is not in the water yet because of complications with land permits for the power source, but the ecosystem of diverse, caring people involved in this important ecological story is evolving, and so are our visions.  A few years isn’t that long in geological and bureaucratic time. BUT, since I’m a human trying to help save corals dying at rapid rates~  IN THE WATER IN 2014!

To the Future. Photo by Colleen Flanigan, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reef reFORMed

Welcome the Year of the Horse!

A big year for travel. And all you Oxes working so hard in 2014, it will pay off.  Watch out, Rats, not to get under any hooves.   And as a Pig myself, I’m glad I didn’t know 2013 was supposed to be horrible for me because it was great in so many ways.

 

Here we see coral propagating like a Chinese New Year’s fireworks show. Watch it Grow on the 1″ scale model of a Living Sea Sculpture soon to be installed in Mexico.

January 28th was TEDxSpence, a youth event in Manhattan.  An inspiring day of talks and workshops with super girls at the school.  Below is the 3rd version of Reef reFORMed in New York.  I wanted to capture the improvisational sculptural installation, so tried low-tech time-lapse for the first time with iStopMotion on an iPad.  The 7-9th graders opted for 6 second intervals.  Here’s what happened in a couple hours~

 

Do we need more Biorock reefs in Florida?

I just received an email asking about the potential for Living Sea Sculptures in Florida.

“Living here in Sarasota, FL, I’m wondering if a Bio-rock reef would increase the fish populations that dolphins and porpoises eat, and therefore would keep them here so that we humans could see and appreciate their majestic beauty more often. I believe we have dwindling populations here now. Have to talk with some marine biologists here… am in initial thinking about how an art-sci project could catalyze and galvanize the community on this issue. Perhaps it’s planting more mangroves that we need, while also educating public on benefits of “zero-scaping” to stop fertilizer run-off from ocean-side lawns.  Any thoughts on the benefits of Bio-rock sculptural reefs here?

My response: I would LOVE to work on more projects in Florida.  It’s a great place to expand the current approaches to coral nurseries and integrative ecological healing, community interaction, and local economy. There is an existing project, the first coral reef fisheries habitat and restoration project using Biorock mineral accretion in the US, installed in 2011 at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.  The Global Coral Reef Alliance worked in collaboration with Vone Research and the Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Commission to create this unique site powered with solar buoys.

This video shares some of the ideas and theories motivating the project.  I talk with marine biologists and scientists often to gain up to date information about the state of coral and ocean health since there are so many variables at play when considering climate change, acidification, resiliency, and adaptation.  Amidst the differing opinions and uncertainties, one thing seems to stand constant, restoring reefs and cultivating coral with awareness of their biological needs as they relate to environmental stressors are critical pieces of the present day foundation to build future coral reef ecosystems.

The Biorock process allows us to realize dynamic, organic compositions with living organisms in the fluid sea as a means to nurture a sense of belonging and place high value on loving action to heal the polyps and their beautiful colonies.  With more sculptural reefs and less fertilized lawns, Florida will invite more fish and dolphins to their coast.

 

 

 

 

GOOD is…

On July 1, GOOD featured Living Sea Sculptures just weeks after Art as Ecology: Coral Collaborations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) headquarters in June.  It’s been a good couple of months of public sharing about art and science working together for coral survival.

In the vein of rearing plants and other species, this maternity vest by Alice Kim made my day last week!

I remember Tamagotchis capturing our attention and nurturing hours when my aunt gave me one for Christmas years ago. In the middle of a ballet (in the audience), I remember having to look down in the dark to feed it to keep it “alive.” This little egg-shaped digital critter was counting on me. Letting it die was painful, in the way giving up on any semi-OCD behavior that on some level you imagine is linked to survival is painful, but it was not longterm heart-wrenching like losing a living being.

Tamagotchi © 2005 by Tomasz Sienicki

Alice Kim’s maternity vest is quirky-serious living brilliance.

Crafthaus Exhibit and University of Oregon’s Full Spectrum

“I’m grading student work and who do I see? looking at me.” That was a welcome surprise tweet from @JessicaLeeGreen- University of Oregon professor, TED Senior Fellow, friend and colleague.

Restoring our Reefscape was posted by Shelby Adkisson. The Full Spectrum Biology blog is being created by students in the courses Population Ecology and Biological Diversity at the University of Oregon. It is one component of their work, and for each course will unfold throughout the term. +Jessica Green

Crafthaus curator, Greg Corman, created an online exhibit, Sculpture for Wildlife Habitat. It will be up from June 8 – July 8, and then the images will be in their archive.  For the love of bees, birds, seas…very earthy. 1970’s meets the 2000’s.

Reef re-FORMed: A Biorock Simulation

From May 2nd – May 8th, I was invited to transform a shop in DUMBO, New York, into a pop-up gallery.  Preview of the Arts and the THE CREATORS COLLECTIVE initiated a preview parlor for passers-by to experience the creative process through the premier of new works and revisited projects in a non-traditional gallery space.  Numerous artists creating dance, showing installations, and hanging wall art made site-specific projects for the glassed-in shop at 145 Front St. in Brooklyn.

Photo by John Busche

The video scenes of growing Biorock coral sculptures and underwater propagation projected on the wall in the background lured divers and ocean lovers, as well as those just curious people who found themselves meandering through a labyrinthine shopping mall.

The crocheted and needle-felted community reef was donated by Gossamer Fiber Arts in Portland, OR, back in 2008.  I’ve used it on multiple occasions for awareness and restoration re-enactments.  Thanks to Al Atarra, who runs the The Metropolitan Exchange, “a cooperative of creative professionals in Downtown Brooklyn”, I received metal from architect, Marc Fornes’ discarded designs.  That, plus some thick, flexible insulated cable was fun to reassemble into a rocky reef formation with Nick from A New Seed NYC. (somehow his last name was never spoken. He is “Nick from a New Seed”)

Needle-felted octopus by Susan Lake. Photo John Busche

The octopus gets a lot of high praise.  She almost missed this show;  luckily for all, it worked out.  Also, Downtown Yarns in Manhattan granted us a few additions to the reef, including a chambered nautilus.

My goal to do work in the ocean and share it on land keeps evolving.  For the past 3 years, I’ve been developing a concept and collecting who, how, where for an interactive, multimedia installation that correlates human health with coral health in a unique, artistic way.  I see it in my mind’s eye, and will soon show you some of the visuals and technologies that are helping me get closer.

There are incredible, interdisciplinary artists using robotics and sensory programs to reveal natural movement and data with kinetic sculptures.  They’re able to create intricate poetry and awe with movement and form.  The depth of intimacy they have with their process, from conceiving to making, is an expression of mastery, curiosity, love and dedication to bringing life-animated to technology. Somehow it seems like this investigation will have a positive feedback loop: inviting people to fall in love again with wild and mysterious beautiful plants and animals. One could argue that it might make people fall in love with robots, but I leave that open to never-ending discussion and reflection.

Coral Restoration: Chinese New Year

What’s colorful and reminds us that old and new, life and death, are inextricably bound together by the continuum of change?  Chinese New Year Day celebration, for one.

Dancer at Water Snake celebration in Chinatown New York

We have entered the year of The Water Snake.

Chinese characters for "Water Snake"

Intuitive depths, feminine wisdom, and transformation are possible associations with the year of the snake, as well as good business ability and reserved emotions.  Symbolism and mythology within historical traditions vary from region to region, and first-hand experience offers subtle rich surprises, like this beautiful new-fallen drift in Chinatown brightly adorned  with “snowfetti.”

snowfetti

I tried the various street food; how can you get 4 of anything for $1?!?  Didn’t get sick (not that I thought I would, but a friend was wary), and loved watching the women dance in outfits that reminded me of the brilliance of a healthy reef.

Dancer amidst the biodiverse crowd

It is a Water year – contemplation and healing actions from the calm depths are worth imagining.  According to Alison Rourke’s article in theguardian, “Deepwater corals may be key to restoring damaged reefs…”

Here in New York, I aim to make an interactive land exhibit that will correlate human health and coral health. After watching the magician and scientists yesterday at Brainwave: The Magician and listening to their explanations and demonstrations of deception (lies) and limited attention capabilities as the crux of successful magic and trickery,  I saw how the exhibit I’m developing is really about creating the perception of unity between the participant and the kinetic sculptures.  The sculptures are not actually living, but I want them to appear alive, symbiotically effected (dependent) on a human action and data. Just as the magician needs the audience to complete the mystery and suspend disbelief, to be washed over with happy bafflement, some art relies on specific constructs and concepts to open people’s minds to shifts in reality through the senses and fallacy of what we think we know to be true.  Art is often said to be a portal to truth, and now I’m thinking how certain special effects and technical mediums offer new forms of “magic” to contemporary art practices that I want to explore. But what about truth?

My day started out with ritual in a grand cathedral.

Cathedral of St. John the Divine. photo by Nat Ireland

Thanks to a friend, I was introduced to a magnificent architectural, cultural, and historical mouth-dropping feat of making. I can’t help that I spent most my time while there looking at all the windows (really? they need to be restored?) and the labor intensive cement castings, metalwork…It houses one of the most powerful pipe organs in the world!  Awe-inspiring environment – the space and the effort to create it was, for me, the magic and the spiritual gift as I flashed back to 1892 when its foundation was being laid… During the sermon I felt that truth was being suffocated with someone telling everyone what God is and isn’t.

Magic is predicated on deception, religion on truth (according to magician, Joshua Jay, yesterday). I got hung up on some religious hypocrisy,  but I knew that it was a celebration, too, of life, death, restoring and seeking.  I just needed to get into the sun and find the warm light of day and connect with playful exuberance: How lucky to jump into so many colorful and curious perceptions in a single afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Reefs – sizes and shapes

DNA Sculpture at Puerto Cancun. photo by mikegerz.com, copyright 2011

Small or large, simple or complex, sculptures and forms can be any shape or size…each one becoming a unique living being, like you. Each one will grow with less human control than many artists or architects would like.  Some will bulge just where you wanted them to turn in, or will be settled by a coral variety that clashes in color with an adjacent species.  The unexpected and predictable wayward ways of biology and ecology are what make this work a true collaboration with nature.  It could be pruned and controlled, maybe it will need some interaction, but I like watching what the organisms do.

Coral Skirt. Pemuteran, Bali 2009
Coral Skirt
Coral Skirt, 5 months growth. photo by Rani E. Morrow-Wuigk copyright 2010
Coral Skirt, 2012
Coral Skirt. 2 yrs 8 months growth. photo by Komang Astika, 2012
Coral Skirt. 3 yrs 3 months. photo by Joey Ellis, 2013

For a more in-depth story about the making of the Coral Skirt, visit Biorock Bali Expedition 2009

I have said that if we can build a super highway, we can build a super reef.  And turns out, Wolf Hilbertz and Tom Goreau were planning such a feat to surround Ihuru in the Maldives to protect it from being pummeled and reclaimed by the lapping rising sea. Below is an example of an extended reef they installed along the coast of Helen Island (notice the dark band parallel to shore). I believe they used solar to power it. The structure is 150 feet (50m) long, 3 feet (1m) tall, 15 feet (5m wide).

The beach grew by 50 feet (15 m) seaward over 150 feet (50 m) of shore in 2 years.

Helen Island Biorock Reef structure

Apparently the water used to come right up to the palm trees and resort before the installation.  You can see how much sand there is now, all because the waves are slowed as they flow through the artificial reef structures that act as permeable breakwaters.  Natural coral reefs are permeable, too, since corals need current to flow through them to get their nutrients.  Sadly, the plan to create “the necklace” to encircle the island was never implemented, so sand bags and dredging continue as main attempts to stave off waves;  neither helps bio-diversity or has any real chance of forwarding life-supporting innovation.

Installation of the artificial reef. photo by Caspar Henderson or Wolf Hilbertz

This photo shows the  simple arches that grew limestone and corals to protect the shores of Helen Island.

Coral restoration is an act where practical meets beautiful meets resourceful meets viable meets doable meets valuable.

I wonder what this form will attract? It’s an extrovert in need of its introverted partner.

Extrovert model
"Extrovert" model in progress
"extrovert" model living sea sculpture
"Extrovert" small model in progress
"Extrovert" small model in progress
Looks taller this way

Perforated stainless represents where mild steel expanded metal mesh (EMM) will go.  The EMM should fill in faster with minerals creating visual interest and a denser substrate for organisms to attach to and colonize.

"Extrovert" - small model inspired by relaxed surface algorithm, 2012.

As we enter 2013, I want to say a positive word for the coral refuge in Cancun. During the year and half of waiting to install this piece,

DNA under a tarp at the deployment yard. The mesh is example of EMM. photo March 2012

I have learned alot about maintaining enthusiasm while gaining some reality checks about bureaucracy.  Being able to participate in the creation of living art for an underwater museum and a national marine park is exciting and challenging. Patience is with me as I keep the vision for installation this May or June.  May patience and kindness find you as 2013 flows in~~~

 

 

 

 

 

 

Electrifying a Reef

Part 2:  With Biorock mineral accretion, what happens chemically during electrolysis? That’s the question I want to answer, but first, I’m attuned to the seasonal moment.  If you’re in the tropics, you aren’t feeling the darkness of the winter solstice we experience in the upper latitudes.  Up here we celebrate snow and cold, the warming from wool, hot food, and hopefully good insulation.

Electrifying a reef
Dec 19, 2009 Jokimaa, Southern Finland - Courtesy Seppo Ranta. copyright 2009

The beautiful “frost flowers,” as Jeff Bowman refers to them in Robert Krulwich’s NPR piece, are home to millions of bacteria.  These freezing super salty forms remind me of Whoville in Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!  You can’t see all the microscopic life, but it IS there.

“No one believes Horton. They think he’s crazy.”

Aggregations of shimmering crystals like these are eye candy.  They conjure up an image of flocked corals.  Not bleached corals, I’m happy to say; something about them is festive and fantastical.  Since they may be a result of warming poles, their beauty is likely a paradox, yet for now, they appear as winter wonderland mysteries.  They are a biological chemical feat.

salty ocean blossoms
photo by Matthias Weitz/ "Suddenly There's a Meadow in the Ocean with Flowers Everywhere"

Which brings me back to the question: What is the chemistry behind the electrolytic process for Biorock mineral accretion?  Now that the power is on, what happens in the seawater?

bit-o-biorock jewelry
Bit-o-Biorock pendants in process. Photo by Clay Connally, 2012

According to a research paper by Wolf Hilbertz and Thomas J. Goreau1, deposition of minerals results from alkaline conditions created at the cathode – negatively charged steel sculpture, in our case – by the reduction reaction: 

2H2O+2e =H2 +2OH                                                                                                        2 water molecules + 2 electrons = 1 hydrogen + 2 hydroxide molecules

which precipitates calcium and magnesium minerals from seawater: A basic natural limestone substrate that continues to “grow” and “heal” if damaged while also preventing rust/corrosion of the metal.

OH + HCO3 + Ca++ = CaCO3 + H2O                                                                  hydroxide + hydrogen carbonate (bicarbonate ion) + calcium = calcium carbonate + water

2OH + Mg++ = Mg(OH)2                                                                                                    2 hydroxide molecules +  magnesium (3rd most abundant mineral in seawater) = brucite (mineral form of magnesium hydroxide: not a very stable mineral for accretion)

In contrast, the anode becomes acidic due to:
2H2O = 4H+ + O2 + 4e                                                                                                        2 water molecules = 4 protons + oxygen + 4 electrons

and highly oxidizing conditions result in:
2Cl = Cl2 + 2e                                                                                                                  2 ionic chlorides/organic chlorides= elemental chlorine + 2 electrons

The sum of the net reactions at both electrodes (the {+} charged titanium mesh anode and the {-} charged steel cathode) should be neutral with regard to hydrogen ion production, and hence with regard to CO2 generation through acid–base equilibrium and carbonic acid hydrolysis:

2HCO3 = CO3−− + CO2 + H2O                                                                                           2 hydrogen carbonates = carbonate + carbon dioxide + water

Samuel Raj
"Flame" by Samuel Raj. CC flickr

As a metalsmith, I learned over the years what a reducing flame, oxidizing flame, and neutral flame do to metal.  Equations were not a critical part of learning this, though; it was through hands-on experience that I saw what happened from varying flames. But for the curious and chemistry buffs, I hope this shines light for you.  I’m still learning what the equations mean through my experiments in tanks and the ocean.  Without my “mistakes” of plating stainless steel with iron, and accidentally creating rust baths as I try to grow pendants, I would not be able to grasp these principles.

Kochi at Hitachi Seaside Park in Japan

And without incredible plants like these in Japan, Dr. Seuss might not have drawn endless fields of clover for Horton to roam, seeking to find…

Photo from Alice’s blog at Extraordinary Travel Destinations Off the Beaten Path

1Thomas J. Goreau and Wolf Hilbertz, 2012. Reef Restoration Using Seawater Electrolysis in Jamaica; Innovative Methods of Marine Ecosystem Restoration 4:  36-37.

Curvilinear

This blog will be a curvilinear stream of consciousness.  A stream between both hemispheres of my brain, and yours. Living Sea Sculpture is more than an object, it is an intricate web of life, philosophy, and process.  Dot-to-dot drawings are predetermined,

fish balloon and fox
Transportation: dot-to-dot pages

but as we build our lives, we are lucky to have the freedom to connect whatever “dots” we choose or notice.  I am happy to be starting this conversation, what I hope will become an ongoing international conversation, about all aspects of human interaction with our coastal cousins.

Over the years, I realize there’s not a place for people to talk freely about coral restoration and marine ecosystem solutions in a personal and informal way.  Why?  All the details and ins and outs of processes, people, organisms are tied together intimately.

Lots of blogs and articles (and me) have repeatedly relayed the information about Biorock reefs (…low volt direct current precipitates limestone minerals to deposit…alkaline buffer zone..grow faster, survive warming…).  Other man-made reefs and coral nurseries have some glowing moments on green sites and in nature magazines also, yet the conclusion is the same: through a portrait of this man (fill in the blank) we can make the point that corals and other animals are endangered due to human activities and here is a sort of lone hero  bucking the odds. The odds may be stacked, but that is the call to ACT.

Wherever you are with whatever you know, you know enough to enter this conversation and have incredible impact. We can build new projects and coral conservatories together if we find each other.

I just read an article that said waiting for government or big corporations to take the lead on this is not the way.  Agreed. They will get involved, they are involved, and individuals from all backgrounds need inlets to get involved too.  Being nimble is an asset.  Coral restoration is not rocket science (although you can be a rocket scientist and do it); it is a practice and technology that grows out of a desire to cultivate healthier relationships with ourselves and our planet, to heal what is not well and find fun and adventure along the way.

Maybe you just have a fascination with playing with organic matter.  Whether you approach it as a gardener who longs for beautiful form and colorful vitality, an engineer who “knows” there is a better way to electrify an artificial reef (talk to me), a fisherman who needs fish, a scientist who wants to study the effects of low volt current on Zooxanthellae within coral polyps, a homeowner who doesn’t want to be washed to sea, a resort owner who woos tourists, an artist that makes sculpture, a diver that breathes underwater…

I’m not sure why I took so long to start this.  I have a lot to say and want to hear from you.  If you are part of the Living Sea Sculpture diaspora waiting to find your homeland, Welcome!

Hydnophora- Biorock experiement at SeaHorse Aquarium. photo by Clay Connally, 2011