Ocean Art 2023 - Honorable Mention Underwater Conservation

Honorable Mention Underwater Conservation

Dan Mele




Dan Mele won a bottle of Li Lé Blue Watersports Hair Care for Divers! 


The Story: 

Most corals spawn once a year in synchrony by using several environmental cues. Due to the ongoing degradation of coral reefs, many surviving corals of the same species are now spaced too far apart on a reef for successful fertilization to occur. At the University of the Virgin Islands, coral researchers temporarily removed several grooved brain corals from reefs surrounding the U.S. Virgin Islands and brought them into a land-based coral nursery, where they're spawned in controlled conditions. These techniques allow researchers to collect sperm and eggs from several corals efficiently and fertilize them in the lab, where they can be grown and eventually outplanted back to the reef. After spawning, the corals removed from the reef are placed back to the same reef which they were collected from.

This technique of assisted fertilization is also sometimes called assisted evolution. The corals inside this table have survived several prior bleaching events, hurricanes, and disease outbreaks, such as the devastating Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. This means that these individuals may harbor essential genetics, making them more resilient to several environmental stressors that kill corals. By spawning and crossing these survivors, it's hoped that this may lead to more robust and resilient corals better equipped for the future environmental parameters of our oceans.

Just before they're expected to spawn in the nursery, the water flow is turned off, bringing a calmness to their environment and creating the perfect opportunity to shoot the reflection of the corals in the still water surface. With the corals-filled nursery, I only had a few locations to slip my camera in. Fortunately, this vantage point gave me lots of depth to work within the nursery.


University of the Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands

Equipment Used: 

Camera Settings: 

  • Aperture: F6.3
  • Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
  • ISO: 100



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