The Science of Zoe - A Living Sea Sculpture

Coral reefs are made by thousands of tiny animals – polyps – secreting calcium carbonate to make strong, permeable structures that slow waves to protect shores, provide habitat for more than 25% of marine life, and become beautiful natural wonders. Most of their food comes from the vibrantly colored photosynthetic algae – zooxanthellae – living within them. BUT it is a fragile balance, this symbiotic relationship. Rising sea temperatures, shifts in ocean pH, and bad water quality are huge threats to their livelihoods. They depend on clean water, just-so temperatures, and an abundance of minerals available to build their exoskeletons. 

Mineral accretion is a life-supporting method of reef restoration that addresses some of these environmental stressors. Low-volt direct current through seawater attracts calcium carbonate to deposit onto the metal sculpture, giving homeless corals, fish, and other organisms new habitats to colonize and graze. The slight increase in pH and electrical flow can give corals faster growth rates as well as resilience in hot years.

Zoe anchored to the seafloor is the real birth of this art, science, and technology adventure. Within 24 hours of the electrical charge on September 29th, a thin coat of white minerals began to cover the surface to fortify the mild steel and prevent corrosion. It will continue to gain in strength and serve as a natural substrate for corals to cement to, merging their bodies to collaborate, change, and define this dynamic artwork. Locals and visitors will join in the long-term monitoring and care of this interdisciplinary work. Zoe is a new exciting opportunity in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef to investigate regeneration and the response by corals and marine life to innovative interventions to protect our ocean habitat


Tagging and research of the reef’s coral colonies began in February 2021. 

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