The Museum of Underwater Art continues to attract global attention by publishing a scientific paper in a special edition on artificial reefs in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering.

Adjunct Assoc Prof Adam Smith, CEO of Reef Ecologic and Deputy Chair of the Museum of Underwater Art co-authored the paper titled Engineering, Ecological and Social Monitoring of the Largest Underwater Sculpture in the World at John Brewer Reef, Australia.

“This is a significant paper as artificial reefs featuring underwater art are still understudied,” Adam said.

The largest underwater sculpture in the world, the ‘Coral Greenhouse’ by artist Jason deCaires Taylor, was commissioned by the Museum of Underwater Art and installed at John Brewer Reef in December 2019. Since then, scientists and engineers have been researching various socio-ecological and structural factors.


The Coral Greenhouse is the first underwater museum in the southern hemisphere and the first Australian installation for Jason deCaires Taylor. The works bring into focus diverse fields of study including marine science, coral gardening, underwater and environmental art and architecture providing a starting point and new perspective for an understanding of the Great Barrier Reef and its ecology.

Jason deCaires Taylor, world-renowned sculptor said the design of the Coral Greenhouse is biomorphic and its form was determined by the forces of nature.

“As the sculptures are slowly colonised and built upon by the reef, they will be gradually absorbed into its surroundings, illustrating an organic architectural philosophy that centres on the unification and connection to their surroundings,” Jason said.

The published paper Adj Professor Adam Smith and his research co-authors identifies:

  • Artificial reefs naturally turn into living structures as benthic organisms begin to colonise. Fish surveys by scientists from Reef Ecologic and TropWATER, James Cook University indicated significant increases in diversity and abundance, with 12 species and 65 individuals recorded in 2018 compared to 46 species and 365 individuals recorded in 2022. This is a 400% increase in diversity and a 500% increase in abundance over time. Macroinvertebrate species such as sea cucumbers and starfish maintained no significant trends in abundance, species richness, and diversity with respect to time between 2018 and 2022.
  • Planting corals on underwater sculptures is an innovative method of linking art, science, tourism, and conservation. Coral restoration and natural recruitment at the site were monitored, measuring aesthetics, survivorship of planted corals, and coral recruitment. Of 131 corals transplanted in March 2020, survivorship was 100% at one month, 92% at six months, and 91.6% at 12 months. Hard and soft corals were recruited to the structure at a density of 8.35 hard corals/m2 and 10.9 soft corals/m2 over 26 months.

Nathan Cook, Reef Ecologic’s reef restoration expert said the Museum of Underwater Art showcases active reef restoration techniques used internationally.

“As a demonstration site, the Museum of Underwater Art showcases active reef restoration techniques used internationally to assist with the recovery of degraded reefs,” Nathan said.

Paul Victory, Chair of Museum of Underwater Art said artificial reefs are a popular attraction with scuba diving and snorkelling tourists.

“I am delighted that the community and dive industry value the Coral Greenhouse and the research has quantified the high satisfaction of scuba and snorkel divers experience at 8.7 out of 10,” Paul said.


Adj Assoc Prof Adam Smith, Deputy Chair MOUA Ltd,, 0418726584