Awesome fragile ocean homes

News | Created 20 Oct 2017

A woman and a young girl work on their contribution to the coral reef at AWESOME Festival

Just near Coral Bay, in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia, in the crystal-clear waters of Ningaloo Marine Park is one of the world’s most amazing reefs. More than 500 species of brightly coloured fish make their home in coral reef ‘cities’. Because they are so close to shore, they are at risk from human activity.

Off the Kimberley and Pilbara coast there is also a huge array of marine life. Sponges and soft corals form colourful ‘gardens’ and provide homes for marine life. They are filter-feeders that strain and cleanse toxins from the water. These sponge ‘gardens’ are fragile and are damaged by rubbish and other pollution.

These marine environments and the species that live in them will be featured in the New Museum in a gallery about Western Australia’s diverse plants and animals.

To explore and celebrate these marine environments, the WA Museum joined forces with textile artist Lex Randolph to create a textile reef installation as part of the AWESOME Festival.

People of all ages were invited to design and make a textile coral, sponge or marine creature and contribute to the sea-themed installation.  Using recycled craft materials families created gorgeous sponges, corals, sea stars, sea jellies and other marine creatures.

During the event, Museum scientists shared their research and spoke to families about how they are studying these resilient corals so we can better understand and forecast marine responses to global climate change.

A seahorse made of wool and plastic hanging in the AWESOME Festival tent
pieces of wool and fabric make a bed of sea creatures
and adult and a child admire the contributions to the coral reef
a small girl examines a sea shell using a microscopic camera
up close detail of the reef, fabric used to weave the reef
wool, fabric and netting detail of the reef
wool and pipe cleaners make coral
a section of the reef, plastic tubing forms the base and children's contributions cover to make a colourful reef
Wool tightly wrapped around twisted pieces of pipecleaner to make coral
twisted coral and a background of woven wool
plastic base tube with colourful coral sprouting from the top
bright silk fabric and lace make coral pieces
orange fabric and netting make the centre of coral and old VHS tape surrounds the piece

Protecting WA’s ocean homes

Have you ever stopped to consider what impact your sunscreen has on sea sponges? Or what happens when you take coral or sponges as souvenirs? All our actions, no matter where we live, affect the ocean and the marine life it holds. The health of marine homes is in our hands.

Here are a few things you can do to support the health of ocean habitats.

  • Slip, slop, save marine life – choose non-toxic sunscreens and wear a rash shirt while swimming to reduce pollutants in the ocean.
  • Be seafood smart - when it comes to seafood, there aren’t plenty of fish in the ocean. Learn how to make smart seafood choices
  • Ditch disposables – single-use plastic bags and food containers don’t disappear. They can end up in the ocean and harm marine life. Bring your own containers.
  • Clean up WA – rubbish is bad for marine life. Volunteer to help clean up a local beach, park or roadway and pick up litter before it makes its way to the ocean.
  • Take only pictures – corals and sponges are alive and take decades to grow into diverse marine habitats. Don’t touch or remove these animals from their ocean homes.
  • Practice safe boating – anchor in sandy areas away from coral bommies so that the anchor and chain do not drag on reef habitats.

You can find out more about sponges and corals by exploring the WA Museum collection.