St. John Island marine lab captures breathtaking shots of corals glowing under UV light


Sumita Thiagarajan | October 15, 2020, 12:38 PM

Singapore is not just home to animals that roam on land, but is also home to thriving marine life.

Capturing the beauty of corals under UV light

Among our marine life, we have about 255 species of hard corals recorded in Singapore, according to the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Reef Ecology Lab.

In photos captured at St. John’s Island National Marine Laboratory (SJINML), a local offshore marine research facility, we can see the beauty of two coral species (Merulina sp. and Goniopora sp.), which can be found in Singapore waters.

Here's a photo of a coral species (Goniopora sp.) which was uploaded to the marine lab's Facebook - led by the community of researchers, which live in intertidal areas in the wild:

Photo of Goniopora sp. by Denise Ann McIntyre

According to Denise Ann McIntyre, who is a laboratory technician at the research facility, this species has a tendency to retract their tentacles when disturbed and their beautiful polyps (the tiny cotton-bud-like structures) would not be visible.

To capture a photo of this species with their visible tentacles, McIntyre used shade nets to block sunlight and shot the photos towards the end of the day to capture these breathtaking shots:

Photo of Goniopora sp. by Denise Ann McIntyre

She told Mothership that for the other coral species (Merulina sp.), she moved the corals into a small tank and brought them into a darker room, where she captured these photos under a UV torchlight she uses for scuba diving:

Photo of Merulina sp. by Denise Ann McIntyre

McIntyre shared that she started taking these photos as she wanted to show the student interns at the research facility how corals look like under a different light.

She added:

"It lets our interns learn how interesting and beautiful corals are – especially since they have been working hard to help care for them at the marine station."

Photo of Merulina sp. by Denise Ann McIntyre

Speaking to Mothership, she shared that the photos were taken in a controlled setting, using shade nets to block off enough sunlight such that the fluorescence of the corals could be captured under UV light.

She added that when photographing fluorescent corals in the sea, it can be done so with a UV light under low light conditions.

The corals that were captured in the photos were from aquarium tanks at the marine laboratory, and were being used in experiments that looked into their resilience to environmental stress.

McIntyre shared that the lab keeps and cultures corals in their tanks for various reasons, including for restoration purposes and to educate students and interns on the different types of corals that we have here locally.

Coral research in S'pore

To study our local corals and other marine life, the St. John’s Island National Marine Laboratory conducts marine science research.

SJINML is the only offshore marine research facility in Singapore and is located next to the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park.

This allows for high quality seawater to be pumped into aquaria at the marine laboratory and provides a unique opportunity for high impact research in marine science.

McIntyre shared that the community of researchers hopes to share more about marine life at our marine station on St. John’s Island using via social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram), and to raise awareness about our bountiful marine life we have in our very own backyard, in our local marine environments.

You can check out the full post on Facebook on the corals here.

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Top photos by Denise Ann McIntyre