"Pisces", Orignal Acrylic on Canvas, 24"x36" created by Kelly Quinn
This Sea Turtle artwork is called "Pisces", inspired by the events of last year's coral spawn in the Florida Keys and celebrating the achievements of the Florida Aquarium's Center for Conservation team!
The Florida Aquarium team at the Keys Marine Lab
During the spawn, Blake Wheeler and I had the opportunity to learn more about the aquarium's Center for Conservation, and their research with Florida corals! Over the last few years, Florida's coral reef tract, the third-largest in the world, has been losing it's remaining stony corals to a flesh-eating disease called "Stony Coral Tissue Loss" which quite literally causes the corals to rot. Some early indicators point to the culprit being sewage leakage and general pollution from fertilizers and poisons.
Keys Marine Lab staff and biologist Keri O'Neil inspecting lab Pillar Coral
To save the last of the genetically distinct Atlantic Pillar Corals native to the keys, the CFC team partnered with the Keys Marine Lab, Mote Marine Lab and the Georgia Aquarium on a mission to capture the coral spawn, possibly one of the last, and to nurture the polyps into adults in facilities called Arks at the Apollo beach CFC location!
Coral Spawning being collected at Keys Marine Lab *Under Permit
Throughout the ensuing nights, the biologists battled storms and false spawning, but ultimately succeeded in capturing both wild spawn and lab spawn, shown here! Note, all corals were handled under a permit; The Florida Aquarium works under a permit regulated by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary that allows them as well as the other institutions involved, to interact and safely handle corals.
"Pisces" Original Acrylic on Canvas, 24"x36" Fluorescing phase
To fully capture the mystery, and the impact of this event, I wanted to paint a midnight scene lit by the full moon, which is when the coral all spawn together, like a snowstorm underwater. What's interesting about corals, and even the animals like sea turtles who inhabit these environments, they actually fluoresce and glow in the dark under certain lighting!
"Pisces" Original Acrylic on Canvas, 24"x36" Glowing phase
Another connection with this "fluorescing" aspect, thanks to documentary Chasing Coral, is that corals are now known to fluoresce as a last-ditch effort to protect themselves from the sun once bleached, kind of like a temporary sunscreen. However, the corals can only sustain this screen for so long, before they inevitably fade from fluorescing to slightly glowing, to disappearing. This movement from fluorescing to glow to disappearance is what I wanted to capture in this work with the use of the right lighting conditions.
Scott Graves with The Florida Aquarium and fellow scientists at Keys Marine Lab
We love The Florida Aquarium and the research they are working on with the Center for Conservation to protect our wild heritage from disappearing! Florida's coral reefs are gorgeous environments filled with lush wildlife and the fond memories spent with loved ones exploring it, and I can't imagine our home without it.
Atlantic Pillar Coral Spawning at Keys Marine Lab
To preserve this gem for future generations to enjoy, we are donating back to The Florida Aquarium's conservation initiatives with every "Pisces" artwork that finds a new home! So you can feel awesome displaying this vivid artwork that captures the mythical nature of coral reefs, AND represents a place you're helping us to protect!
- Learn More about Pisces by visiting this link > "Pisces"
Endangered Staghorn Coral grown at The Florida Aquarium
I hope you found this jump into Florida's marine research fascinating! A huge thank you to Scott Graves and Keri O'Neil for inviting us down to share this story, and to The Florida Aquarium, Center for Conservation, and Keys Marine Lab for hosting us!
Florida Keys Coral Reef in Biscayne National Park
As always, I want to stimulate a conversation around these important topics. Now that you've learned a bit about some of the research, what are your thoughts on coral conservation and the protection of America's Coral Reef? What are your concerns with the current state of our home and what value do you think it brings to your life?
Thank you for reading, you're amazing!
*Permit Notation* The Florida Aquarium works under a permit regulated by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.