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Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd, South
Fort Myers, FL 33965-6565
(239) 590-1000 or (800) 590-3428

JAMES WESLEY FITCH

EUPHOTIC VERDURE

Senior Project FALL 2017

I moved to Key Largo in the Florida Keys when I was ten years old. My stepfather taught at Marine Resources Development Foundation, and I was there for lectures and snorkeling trips any time that there was space for me to tag along. The local coral reefs became an incredibly special place for me. As I learned all about my environment, I loved to find new things, to identify species, to find dinner. Eventually the reef became my place of solitude, my quiet place to commune with nature. The concept for this project came to me after working on a series of abstract paintings about the landscape of coral reefs and the flow of water through spur and groove formations. It brought me to think about the changes I have seen in the reefs over time. These reefs now have a different appearance, with nearly all of some coral species extinguished.


Coral is clearly disappearing before our eyes. My Senior Project is an effort to facilitate the growth/re-growth of coral. I need to do what I can to prevent any further habitat destruction. My current sculptures are intended to be foundations to establish coral colonies. The sculptures themselves will provide structure for coral to grow upon and provide a habitat promoting the formation of entire coral reef ecosystems. These sculptures, in the form of oil drums, will also bring attention to the issues that are causing such devastation to these sensitive ecosystems. The fossil fuel industry has created many issues for the coral systems; oil spills, ocean acidification and sea surface temperature rise. Those who dive our waters will see them and ought to be inquisitive of these items which are incongruent with their surroundings. Creating awareness of the issue is an important part of the struggle to repair the problem. It is a particularly personal issue to me.


When coral reefs are damaged or need some help, objects known as reef balls are used as a foundation to grow/regrow corals and jump-start a reef building process. The balls are made from a cementitious material in a hemispherical shape with many holes in it providing a home for other wildlife as well as the structure to start a coral reef. I am making sculptures of barrels, using the same or similar materials to that which is used in the reef balls. I created a number of molds to cast barrels. Then I filled a mold with a specialized concrete. The barrel form requires a “plug” which allows the center of the sculpture to be hollow, reducing weight, and depending on the orientation of the sculpture on the sea floor, providing a niche for creatures to find shelter. I will eventually place these sculptures, symbols of the thing that has been destroying the coral, underwater for coral to grow on and cover, and effectively disappearing the thing that is currently causing the coral to disappear. Once in place, the process could take anywhere from three to fifteen years to achieve mature growth, and the forming of a new coral reef.