Coral Morphologic

Coral Morphologic

We now all know that corals are under threat. These fragile organisms are put under great stress from rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, urbanisations, pollution, and direct human impact through harmful fishing practices. Coral are fascinating organisms that are extremely complex, and almost otherworldly. That is why Coral Morphologic is creating innovative underwater media chronicling coral, such as through photography, videography, apparel, and events. By blending science and art they are able to showcase the beauty of coral within popular culture while also calling for action to protect the world’s reefs. Seeing the corals reacting to their surroundings, and their incredible fluorescent colours, there are hopes that people are able to create personal connections. 


Coral Morphologic was founded in 2007 by marine biologist Colin Foord and musician J.D. McKay. Based in Miami, they are a multi-faceted platform for the development of symbiosis between humans and coral. Their artwork is part of a mission to document, aquaculture, and protect coral. In their lab they house and propagate bright fluorescent corals, sea anemones, zoanthids, fish, and crustaceans. Since their beginnings in 2007, the pair have discovered and identified four new species of zoanthids—small, flowery, pod-like relatives of coral. The Miami Vice zoanthid has bright colours (the original a combination of pink and blue, like the eponymous show’s titles), as the pair are fascinated by the fluorescence and colours of coral, and the pair are still trying to understand why corals are fluorescent.  


But their research and conservation is only part of what they do. Together they have developed their research into an art form. Their projects span from photography, filmmaking, sculpture, to installations. The corals are photographed and filmed using extreme macro lenses. Corals naturally fluoresce but are not bioluminescent, meaning that their colours don’t show in sunlight. Therefore Coral Morphologic place their corals under actinic lights.



Coral Morphologic create their own music as the J.D. McKay is also a musician and composes a score for each video. For this he tries to capture sounds emitted by the corals themselves. They have also teamed up with Animal Collective to create the audiovisual album Tangerine Reef. They came together after Coral Morphologic projected imagery of small-scale sea creatures across five screens while the band played new music in response. The name ‘Tangerine Reef’ was created by the duo as they brought together creatures in their lab, making the audio and the visual elements work together synergistically. Shots show corals in shallow focus against dark backgrounds, illuminating their highly saturated colours further. 



A collection of the early coral films, Natural History Redux, were screened at Miami’s Borscht Film Festival and projected large-scale on the facades of buildings during Art Basel; the tropical winter prong of a trio of influential and profitable art festivals that also take place yearly in Switzerland and Hong Kong. The duo were interested in the idea of projecting the coral onto limestone buildings, as the material is infact are made from fossilised corals.  The pair have also collaborated with artist Bhakti Baxter. They wrapped tollbooths at the Port of Miami with photos of their zoanthids. In 2018 Adidas created an event called 747 Warehouse St, this brought together creators from the worlds of sports, music, fashion and design. To showcase the ocean and try to gather more ocean champions Adidas and Parley collaborated with Coral Morphologic. This resulted in projections of the macro coral videos within the space. 


The Coral City Camera

The Coral City Camera is an underwater camera streaming live from a joint urban coral research site. Coral Morphologic is working with researchers from NOAA and University of Miami to understand how these unusually resilient ‘urban corals’ are able to thrive living along the submerged edge of the highway connecting Miami to Miami Beach. By providing the public with real time remote access to Miami’s aquatic life, they hope to generate environmental awareness and civic pride for marine biodiversity. Watch the CCC live above and visit the official site at



Coral Morphologic




The Creators Project