FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. – Coral reef conservation will be a key message at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History this fall with an exhibition of the “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” a project created by Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring in Los Angeles. Interweaving the fields of science, mathematics, conservation, and art, this unique project creatively engages local communities to help raise awareness about the plight of the world’s coral reefs.
Supported by the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), the Embassy of Australia, and the Quiksilver Foundation, the exhibition at the Smithsonian aims to educate the public about the urgent need to protect coral reefs. As the world’s oldest ecosystem, coral reefs are known for harboring the most concentrated biodiversity on the planet, supporting over 25 percent of all marine species and providing food, coastal protection, and income to one billion people around the world.
“CORAL is pleased to help support this exhibition of the Crochet Reef as it shares the same principles as our own organizational mission of uniting communities to save coral reefs,” said Rick MacPherson, Conservation Programs Director for CORAL. “Sadly these ancient, beautiful, yet fragile ecosystems are dying from rising sea surface temperatures, coastal development, water contamination, overfishing, and other threats. It is absolutely critical that we take action now to increase the number of effectively managed marine protected areas worldwide so that both coral reefs and the communities that depend on them are able to thrive.”
CORAL’s project site managers, on the ground in coral reef destinations around the world, are working hard to reduce the local and global impacts that threaten the survival of these endangered ecosystems. Their work is a direct response to studies that show that the long-term survival of coral reefs depends on local communities taking action to alleviate local pressures and support healthy reef ecosystems. As local stresses are eliminated, reefs become more resilient to global threats such as climate change.
“The reefs that I studied 35 years ago have largely vanished, and most reefs may well be gone by the end of the century, or sooner, if nothing is done to protect them,” said Dr. Nancy Knowlton, renowned coral reef biologist and the Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Dr. Knowlton is also a CORAL board member and the Smithsonian’s science advisor for the exhibition. “This project is a stark reminder that if trends continue, an exhibition like this may someday be the only way for people to experience the beauty of coral reefs,” she said.
Growing up in Queensland, Australia, the Wertheim sisters were inspired to create the Crochet Reef as a way to call attention to the plight of the Great Barrier Reef. In 2005 as part of their work for the Institute For Figuring they began crafting this artwork to help raise awareness about the urgency of protecting reefs worldwide. On exhibition at the Smithsonian are clusters of colorful crocheted corals and other marine life made of yarn and recycled materials. The creation of these crafted organisms combines the mathematics of hyperbolic geometry—which appears in nature in the complicated forms of corals, sponges and sea slugs—with the teachings of crochet techniques.
“Wooliness and wetness aren’t exactly two concepts that you would initially pair together, but now this project reaches across five continents and has roots that extend into the fields of mathematics, marine biology, feminine handicraft, and environmental activism,” said Margaret Wertheim, renowned science writer and Director of the Institute For Figuring. “It’s taken on a viral dimension of its own, and in a beautiful way the development of the project parallels the evolution of life on Earth.”
Over the past five years, the Institute For Figuring has worked with communities all over the world to produce local “satellite” reefs in places as far-flung as Chicago, New York, London, Melbourne and Cape Town.
In association with the exhibition opening this fall, the National Museum of Natural History has launched the Smithsonian Community Reef—the newest satellite of the Institute’s global Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project. Leading up to the exhibition, local residents of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area will have the opportunity to participate in crocheting portions of the reef that will be on display.
The Smithsonian exhibition will be open to the general public from October 16, 2010 – April 24, 2011 at the Sant Ocean Hall focus gallery in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Susan Wolf, Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL)
(415) 834-0900 ext. 319
Anna Mayer, Institute For Figuring
Sabine Finnern, Embassy of Australia
Taylor Cotton, Quiksilver Foundation
Kelly Carnes, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural
About the Coral Reef Alliance
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) unites communities to save coral reefs. We provide tools, education, and inspiration to residents of coral reef destinations to support local projects that benefit both reefs and people. Originally founded in 1994 to galvanize the dive community for conservation, CORAL has grown from a small, grassroots alliance into the only international nonprofit organization that works exclusively to unite communities to protect our planet's coral reefs. Visit www.coral.org  or call 1-888-CORAL-REEF.
For more information about the Institute For Figuring’s Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project and the communities around the world who are working on this citizens’ response to the ecological crisis facing reefs today visit: www.crochetcoralreef.org 
For more information about the Smithsonian’s exhibition visit: www.mnh.si.edu/exhibits/hreef/index.html