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Coral reefs can compose sounds. These come from the marine life and other organisms that live there. For example, loud sounds produced by damselfish and squirrelfish, and quieter sounds by pearlfish and seahorse are the components. Relatively, the ambient sounds of a healthy coral reef can attract more fish, which forms a better ecosystem (Lindseth & Lobel, 2018). Severe global warming causes thermal stress that contributes to coral bleaching and infectious disease. Anthropogenic pollution like toxic sunscreen leads to serious and irreparable coral deterioration. These toxic substances cause corals to lose their color, which is the first sign that shows the coral reefs are dying. This destruction will also become a disaster for tropical marine life that depends on coral reefs. Fish then leave, reefs fall silent. In 2016, severe coral bleaching attacked the world's largest coral reef - the Great Barrier Reef in southern Australia. Reports show that the most beautiful coral reefs in the world will disappear in the warm and acidic ocean within 100 years.

Underwater soundscape ecology can monitor the health of an ecosystem through long-term monitoring. A healthy coral reef is full of popping, crackling, whooping and grunting sounds. However, because of climate change and anthropogenic pollution, more corals gradually lose their colors, their inhabitants, and their sounds. Coral reefs are becoming silent......


A healthy reef buzzes with animal sounds.

Sharp Island, Hong Kong


UV Projection / Code​

Corporate with

State Key Laboratory of Marine Pollution

This research project records and represents the health variations of one type of coral species, Platygyra, from a healthy to a dying state under abnormal living conditions. This interdisciplinary work consists of a two-week observation of the experiment in the laboratory, underwater soundtracks collection, data processing, and artistic visualization. The scanned photosynthetic photos of six coral samples are processed and transformed into asemic words patterns. A special mixture of sunscreen and photochromic pigments is utilized to write the words patterns on the canvas. The collected soundscapes are processed to control the UV projector, which influences the clarity of the words on the canvas. An installation is designed for presenting the words from coral reefs as the last words, with the display of the corresponding bleached coral reef samples and captured underwater soundtracks.

The artist investigates critical ecology, coral reef habitat, climate problems, and their relationships with humans, posing questions about the impacts of modern civilization to the underwater ecosystem. This work tends to establish a closer connection between underwater nature and human beings, emphasizing the problem of carbon emission and artificial hazards to the ocean.

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The experiment explores the effects of the chemical components in sunscreens (Octocrylen/ Octinoxate/ Oxybenzone) and abnormal temperature (32°C) towards Platygyra species, gathered from Sharp Island, Hong Kong. Two-week observation, using Imaging-PAM Fluorometer MAXI, detects the photosynthetic reactions of six coral samples.

Underwater soundtracks are collected from Sharp Island, recording sounds from coral communities in different health states  in that area.


For instance:

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On the left side, this collection shows the selected scanned images from six coral samples chronologically. According to the color bar, the left color is the healthiest, and the right side is the worst. If the color shown on the image is white, which means this part is still reacting, but no photosynthetic reaction is detected. The coral reef is bleaching and dying.

The scanned photos are then processed by feature extraction. Next, tracking how these feature points are connected according to the origin texture by comparing the thresholded original coral reef images. Word patterns are transformed from the photosynthetic images, which displays on the right side.

Soundtracks are processed by FFT, the frequency and amplitude are mapped to control the brightness of the projector. The healthier the coral community is, the louder and noisier the sound is, thus the brighter the UV light is. Soundtracks are arranged in order from the noisiest to quietest. In the end, it will be silent, and no light. The original soundtracks are played with the projector for the installation.

​Considering the conditions in the experiment, sunscreen, temperature and special pigments are applied to the canvas, mixing the sunscreen used in the experiment and colorful UV photochromic pigments. With the special UV projector, these colors will change through the brightness of the UV light. At the end of the soundtracks, there will be no light. The word patterns will glow in the dark, then fade and disappear.

Healthier Sound

Worse Sound


Special Thanks:

Dr. Chan Lai Leo

Chung Tzu Hao Jeffery

Dr. Lam Miu Ling

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