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Corals and Crochet

If you know me personally, then you'll know that I've spent 8 months in New Brunswick studying marine biology and coral bleaching was one of my presentation topics. I love tropical reefs, scuba diving and species identification. So of course I was thrilled when I heard that Ontario Science Center (@ontariosciencecentre) was finally bringing Satellite Crochet Coral Reef Project to my home town, in Toronto! Oh, and of course, if you're on my page, you know how I love to crochet! I was a little upset that I didn't know about this project sooner, but I was beyond excited that I could still make the timeline. I spent the weekend looking at all the underwater pictures that I took on my dives, to get inspiration and I was able to create some quick and simple patterns over the weekend. But before I share these patterns, I would like to bring your attention to the root of the Crochet Coral Reef exhibition -- the coral reefs in real life are dying due to climate change.

Photo Credit: Coral Forest, by Christine and Margaret Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring. Image by Stephanie Veto for Lehigh University Art Galleries.

The Crochet Coral Reef Project - Ontario Satellite Reef

The Ontario Science Center is putting together a colourful coral reef made entirely from crochet! The Ontario Satellite Reef is part of Margaret and Christine Wertheim's Crochet Coral Reef endeavor, an international initiative inspired by art, science and environmental activism. The Wertheim's have started this project in 2005, and nearly 20,000 people from around the world have participated in creating more than 40 Satellite Reefs. Check out the virtual reef display using hashtag #OntarioSattelliteReef.

The Problem - Dying Reefs

As temperatures in our oceans increase, it creates an unfavourable environmental conditions causing the algae that is living in the polyps (the living part of the coral) to escape from their symbiotic relationship. A symbiotic relationship is a mutual beneficial relationship. The algae lives inside the coral as the coral provides shelter, and in return, the algae uses photosynthesis to produce food for the coral, giving it it's vibrant colours. When the algae escapes from the polyp, what is left behind is the dead coral, and all we see is the skeletal structure of calcium bicarbonate that is left behind. This event is called coral bleaching.

Photo credit: Bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef near Port Douglas in February. Photograph: HANDOUT/Reuters

Another problem besides the increase in ocean temperature is the millions of tons of plastic waste which contains harmful microorganism that enter the oceans each year. When plastic waste accumulates and floats on top of the ocean's surface, it blocks sunlight from reaching the coral, which can also cause the algae to escape or die. Did you know that if you wear sunblock and go snorkeling, the chemical from the sunblock can also cause harmful chemicals that can get into the corals. It is best advised to wear a body suit to protect from the sun when diving.

Solution - YOU can help

First step is to raise awareness, and talk about the crisis. Share this post, do your research, and just talk about it with your friends and family. Scientists and activists like me, are working to restore and protect coral reefs. Here are some simple actions that you can do:

The Inspiration

So for this project, I created the following corals, inspired by my dives in the Caribbean. The first one is known as the Disk Anemone, also known as Forked Tentacle Corallimorph ; found during one of my dives in Runaway Bay, Jamaica.

You can find my recreation of this here in this crochet pattern.

My next favourite are the common yellow sponge, which I've encountered during one of my dives in Manzanillo, Cuba. This design is dedicated to my late friend Matthew Penney who was an amazing underwater photographer who captured this beauty.

You can find my crochet pattern here.

And the last of my inspiration was the fire coral. It comes from a personal story where I was swooped by waves, and it pushed me onto these corals and boy did they sting! If you ever encounter these fire corals, watch out! They are easily recognized by their white tips, and orange body.

You can find my recreation of this coral pattern here.

I hope you've enjoyed this marine biology session on corals. Do more research, exploring and diving! See you soon!


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