3d printing is one of those things that just gets me all excited inside, especially seeing as it’s becoming more of a household item, that’s more accessible to more people and it’s being used for some pretty incredible things nowadays, like making PPE for frontline workers during the pandemic or developing ways to create habitat for living in on Mars and also what I want to talk about in this video, literally printing new coral reefs. There are a few different ideas around using 3d printing to save coral reefs, which could all play important parts. So in this video, I’m going to talk about why they’re even needed. What is so exciting about them and what they could do for us now and into the future and to help me do that. I’m going to be using a bunch of Lego blocks, but just quickly let me mention another type of block story blocks the sponsor of this video, which I’ll talk about later, but just to let you know they saved my butt with this video with their massive library of stock footage Because I can’t exactly go swimming on a coral reef right now. Okay, so I’m going to assume you already understand that coral reefs are stupidly important, They’re not just pretty to look at. They’re some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, they’re home to countless species that have complex relationships and they provide us humans with countless things like food, coastal protection and economic benefits from things like tourism, and unfortunately, it also goes without saying that they’re a little bit screwed right now, too, With climate change, pollution, ocean acidification and destructive fishing methods, basically destroying them from every angle possible, so a lot of reefs around the world are either in bad shape or have died off completely already now. Obviously, the most important thing to do is deal with the causes of these problems, but we’ve also got to restore the reefs. You know, it’s kind of like how we definitely need to reduce deforestation, but we also really need to restore what we’ve already lost, okay, So coral colonies are made up of tiny animals called polyps that drift around in the ocean and latch onto solid surfaces, they then divide and grow to form colonies and as they grow, they lay down hard skeletons beneath themselves. Creating the massive complex rocky structures of reefs and this complex structure is one of the main reasons that reefs are such a hot spot for life. It provides a massive range of habitats for different species, providing things like protection and hunting grounds and living spaces that fish and other marine life wouldn’t be able to find in the open ocean, so the more complex, the reef, the more biodiversity and just life in general you’re gonna find. And this biodiversity works hand in hand with the reef in complex relationships to keep the reef healthy and functioning. Now, when corals die, they leave behind those massive skeleton structures, they can become colonized again by more of those random floating coral polyps, but this can take decades to develop into anything like what was there before, so even though letting reefs naturally restore themselves would be the ideal thing to do when we’re in a fight to save them. It just might not work so an idea that’s been used for a long time. Is coral farming, where fragments of corals either from a damaged reef or from some other reef are grown in underwater nurseries in good or protected conditions, and then they’re transplanted back onto the reef and this can work really well, but just not in every situation. Sometimes, reefs are either completely demolished by things like dynamite, fishing or cyclones, or if the corals die completely, the hard skeletons that they leave behind can just simply degrade over time, and in both of these situations, what’s going to be left behind is rubble, which is essentially useless for corals to grow on, which is where artificial reefs come in artificial reefs are an old idea. Humans have known for a long time that placing structures on the ocean floor can attract fish by giving them the same hiding spots from predators that those complex reef structures do. But Darwin actually figured out that you could actually take coral fragments that maybe broke off from a reef and use these structures to grow the coral more than it would grow in soft sand now. Today, there are lots of different types and methods used like sinking ships to create massive artificial reefs or creating these huge concrete structures, which are just sent to the bottom of the ocean And there’s also this really cool type called Bio Rock, which is basically a bunch of metal bars with electricity flowing through them, which collect minerals on their surface to make great conditions for coral to grow on these artificial reefs can be used to either heal a damaged wreath or even create a brand new reef in a new location and they can work really well. But recently 3d printing has kind of gained a bit of spotlight for what the future of artificial reefs might look like 3d printing is becoming increasingly cheap and easy to work with so new ideas can be designed, experimented with and improved upon rapidly. It allows more complex structures that more closely mimic the natural shapes of reefs to be designed and it can just make the whole process cheaper and more effective and there are a bunch of different groups that are taking advantage of these advantages in a range of different ways, but there’s one specific project that is most exciting to me. It’s developed by a studio called Reef design lab and the technology is known as Mars, which stands for modular artificial reef structure. They’ve been able to work with researchers and use 3d printing to create these structures with surface textures and shapes that are best suited to help those little coral polyps latch on and grow. And what’s extremely exciting is that the system is modular, kind of like, Lego blocks. The small units can be attached together in different patterns and shapes to create these large complex 3d structures underwater that have lots of like gaps and holes running throughout which mimics the complexity of natural reefs, and so it tracks marine life in real world tests with the system almost immediately small fish start using the bear structure as shelter from predators, then over the first few days, corals and seaweeds attach themselves to the top surfaces where sunlight can hit while sponges start making a home for themselves on the sides, then larger fish and crustaceans start showing up over the first few months as the plants and all the other life on the surface start to thicken up, leading to a lot more biodiversity, even before corals start to really take over and all of this is vital, seeing as all of this life and biodiversity is important for a properly functioning and sustainable reef that can develop into something healthy and useful so being able to provide habitat for marine organisms whilst coral starts to grow and really take over is super important for coral restoration to actually work And the fact that this 3d printed reef is modular, like Lego blocks means that, unlike some other artificial reef ideas, it can be transported and put together by just a few people using things like small boats instead of using loads of people and massive boats and like cranes and things so just for a second. Just imagine this future. The fact that 3d printing is becoming cheaper and more accessible to more people means that the future could see small local communities being able to react almost instantly to a damaged coral reef. They could print their own modules independently using these designs and put them together in whatever shapes best fit a damaged reef’s needs with such a rapid response. It might mean that all of the biodiversity that made the original reef healthy in the first place could stick around whilst coral regrows and takes over the reef again, giving the whole thing a better chance of being successful in the long run. Which is a pretty exciting possibility to me now again. Obviously we are not going to be restoring any reefs if the problems that damaged them in the first place haven’t been solved. It would be like planting a bunch of trees, right in the path of some like mass deforestation route. It just wouldn’t make any sense. But these new methods of 3d printing artificial reefs, which are more specifically designed to specific situations, could buy us some valuable time and make the whole process just more effective so they could play a really important part in saving one of the world’s most important ecosystems. You know, whilst we all get our collective act together, which might take some time. [MUSIC] Now these Lego blocks actually ended up coming in really handy during that video and so did storyblock’s the sponsor of this video. I literally couldn’t have made it without the use of storyblock’s massive library of stock footage where I found clips of coral like this one and this and this one, all of which you saw in the video just now now I’ve worked with Storyblocks a bunch in the past, and they’re always so supportive of creators like me, and I still believe that they are my favorite place to get royalty-free stock footage for any project that I’m working on now. You yourself might be a teacher. That’s maybe making videos for their students whilst a lot of classes are being taken at home right now. Or maybe you’re making videos for Youtube like I do now. Maybe you need some stock footage to fill in some gaps in a video or even create an entire video out of completely. Now, whatever project you’re working on and whatever stock footage you need, you should really go and check story blocks out because they have just so many different clips of different categories. You’re probably gonna find some stuff you can use. And what’s great is that they’re also just really affordable with different subscription plans to fit your needs, including their unlimited plan with access to their entire library and unlimited downloads. So make sure that you check them out at storyblocksco’m forward slash Tom Carroll. That’s with two Rs. And two ls or you could just click the link that is down in the description below. Trust me, they are gonna. Have you covered? So thank you so much for watching this episode? Hopefully you enjoyed it. As much as I enjoyed making it, I’ve got another episode coming really soon. I’m really excited about, so make sure that you’re subscribed and I’ll see you next time. [music] you!