News at Southampton Institute

8 March 2001

Marine ecology meets webcam for postgraduate media study

A media technical instructor and masters degree student at Southampton Institute took the plunge recently at the Bournemouth Oceanarium’s giant ocean tank to sink an artificial reef as part of his academic study.

The installation of the reef, in the presence of seven feet-long sand tiger sharks, took place live on local broadcaster Meridian Television’s news. The artificial reef, made up of basketball-sized concrete blocks known as reef balls, is the first to be sunk in a UK public aquarium.

The project is the work of Don Hendy, a technical instructor in Southampton Institute’s Faculty of Media, Arts and Society, and is part of his MA Media.

The reef will be monitored around-the-clock via underwater video cameras to see how quickly it becomes colonised with new life and live pictures will be sent to a new website being created by Don at

“We’re installing cameras alongside the reef balls which will be able to constantly monitor the new reef and see how it evolves,” he said.

“We will be able to see whether and when colonisation starts and how the other occupants of the tank react to it – the video cameras will allow us to capture and study all this in incredible detail.”

The 350,000-litre Great Barrier Reef tank is home to tropical sharks, a pair of green turtles, reef sharks, stingrays and moray eels.

Reef balls were created in the US in a bid to encourage re-growth on damaged reefs. They mimic natural reef systems.

The project is supported by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.