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inspiring coral reef conservation through art

This art-science collaboration began when Norris Center's Dr. Karen Holl connected Dr. Michael Beck, Professor in Marine Science, and Jessica Kendall-Bar, a PhD student in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. Mike studies the impact of coral reefs and mangroves on coastal resilience and was looking for a way to communicate the power of a breaking wave, the destruction it can cause, and the protective benefits of these natural defenses. This infographic, painted in Procreate and assembled in Adobe Photoshop by Jessie Kendall-Bar, aims to communicate the consequences of reef loss as well as the power of waves. The aim of this work is to communicate to policymakers and stakeholders the consequences of waves and the benefits of reefs. These decision-makers, even those in coastal districts, rarely understand how critical reefs are to preserving lives, livelihoods and property. This work has been presented to top level decision makers at forums with leaders across the US, Pacific and Indian Ocean nations. This included a forum with the 4 atoll nations of the world whose entire existence depends on reefs. The work was funded by the US Department of the Interior and the Kingfisher Foundation.


"What's in a wave.... a lot of power.  What's in a reef ... a lot of flood protection for people and property.  The difficulty is in figuring out how to distill a lot of hardcore engineering and socio-economic science in to visuals that even a policy-maker could understand. It was a real treat to work with Jessie to explain this science with straightforward and compelling visuals. Within just a couple of months we went from concept to using the imagery in forums with top level decision-makers from a dozen US agencies and leaders in the Maldives, Kiribati, Fiji, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Asian Development Bank" - Mike Beck  

It all comes down to this:

Coral reefs do an incredible service to our shoreline, by absorbing 97% of wave power and shielding 1000 miles of coastline in the US alone. 1 meter of reef degradation ALONE can QUADRUPLE wave power unleashed on the shore and DOUBLE of the cost and severity of coastal flooding, which would result in the considerable monetary costs in the US and worldwide. This will be the case even in ABSENCE of sea level rise and increasing extreme weather events,

While this may seem like a staggering and upsetting statistic, we can do something about this. Reef conservation efforts have commenced in low lying atolls like the Maldives, where this work will be presented in a ministerial forum organized by the Asian Development Bank. The cost effectiveness of reef conservation efforts has been shown scientifically as part of collaborations between UCSC, USGS, and the University of Cantabria and our team is exploring new financing opportunities with the insurance industry (e.g., Swiss Re, Munich Re, Lloyd's, and Risk Management Solutions), including the first ever reef insurance policy in Mexico.


It's been very exciting to work on a project with such important global policy implications and finally feel one step closer to being able to make a difference at an individual level. 

Where has the Wave Power Project been presented?

  1. The 42nd United States Coral Reef Task Force Meeting in Palau
    Presented by Dr. Curt Storlazzi

  2. The Atolls Nation Dialogue in Maldives with foreign ministers from 4 Atoll Nations - Fiji, Maldives, Republic of Marshall Islands, and Kiribati
    Presented by Dr. Mike Beck

  3. The Norris Center Science & Art Showcase at Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History
    Presented by Jessie Kendall-Bar

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