Based on discoveries made from an active research grant, Gruber, colleagues, and students will develop multimedia deliverables that highlight the biofluorescence found in coral reefs. They include development of a multimedia exhibit containing interactive, inquiry-based modules and new videos developed off the Cayman Islands. These deliverables will share the beauty of coral reefs, the source of biofluorescence (fluorescent proteins), and the fundamental importance of coral reefs in shallow marine ecosystems. The STEM content of this project is drawn from the biological sciences, including specific topics such as marine biology, physiology, ecology, and conservation.

The exhibit will reach diverse audiences at public aquaria and at the principal investigator's institution. Learning will be studied by an external evaluator through formative assessment. The new science discoveries and related STEM content about coral reef biofluorescence also will be communicated via a web site that enables access by informal learners online. This Communicating Research to Public Audiences project is based on research grant MCB-0920572: Isolation, characterization, and evolution of fluorescent proteins from Indo-Pacific and Caribbean marine organisms.

Project Report

This Connecting Researchers and Public Audiences (CRPA) project has produced a completely unique fluorescent photomural of the Western Hemisphere's most spectacular coral reef–the Bloody Bay Wall off of Little Cayman Island. Sophisticated digital imaging captured by renowned underwater photographer Jim Hellemn provides panoramic views of the reef in both daylight and night illumination. A section of Hellemn’s 20-by-70-foot true-color image of the wall offers viewers a simulated diving experience, while the evening images reveal a hidden underwater world of biofluorescent protein distribution among the reef's diverse inhabitants. The photomural serves as a major interactive exhibit within "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence," which will be on display at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) from March 31, 2012 to January 6, 2013. The exhibit will then travel to museums and aquaria nationwide and worldwide for up to 10 years. Through this interactive experience, museum visitors can explore and learn more about the neon glow of the coral wall community. The exhibit also communicates the relevance of these fluorescing marine organisms to ecosystem function and disease research. The coral display includes interpretive messages on topics such as the physics of fluorescence, coral reef diversity, fish biofluorescence, marine organism use in biomedical research and coral reefs as fluorescent light shows. Organisms that exhibit biofluorescence absorb light and re-emit it with altered color or wavelength. This phenomenon exists only in select classes of animals, but primarily in Anthozoa –anemones, jellyfish and corals. In addition, our team of "Creatures of Light" researchers discovered new species of biofluorescent fishes during the creation of this CRPA project. A web version of the fluorescent coral wall can be experienced at

Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
CUNY Baruch College
New York
United States
Zip Code