Expedition Reef planetarium show

San Francisco (March 9, 2018)—In the California Academy of Sciences’ latest original planetarium show, Expedition Reef, audiences will plunge into the bustling, biodiverse communities hidden within coral reef ecosystems around the world to discover how corals live, breathe, and reproduce. Narrated by Tony Award ® winner Lea Salonga, Expedition Reef is the sixth original in-house production by the Academy’s award-winning Visualization Studio. From the comfort of a planetarium seat, viewers can travel the globe to explore coral reefs teeming with life and learn how scientists are racing to develop sustainable solutions to protect these vitally important ecosystems for the future.

“The opportunity to create a planetarium show that takes viewers to the depths of the ocean was an incredible technical and creative endeavor,” says Ryan Wyatt, the Academy’s Senior Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization. “The Academy’s Visualization Studio built the world’s most accurate digital reef, based on a truly amazing amount of data. Plus, we explore corals in a way I expect most people haven’t seen before—especially the symbiotic relationship between corals and their algae, and how that relationship goes awry during a bleaching event. We hope all planetarium visitors take away a newfound appreciation for the ‘galaxies of life’ that exist below the ocean’s surface.”

The show opens with a familiar sight: thousands of tropical fish and colorful corals thriving in the Academy’s Philippine Coral Reef exhibit, the largest and deepest indoor display of living corals in the world. From there, visitors will venture across the globe and below the ocean’s surface to learn about the biology of corals and how these dynamic communities are faring in our changing climate. Along the way, viewers will come face-to-face with charismatic reef inhabitants as they discover how reefs support a quarter of all marine life on Earth, and some of the planet’s most complex food webs. Watch a slithering moray eel getting groomed by a dutiful cleaner shrimp and cleaner wrasse, a trapezia crab square off with a crown-of-thorns starfish to protect its coral abode, and other-wordly nudibranchs dine on a tasty meal of sponges—scenes all brought vividly to life through hundreds of hours of production and animation design and collaboration between Academy scientists and the museum’s in-house Visualization Studio. Referencing 360° footage and hi-resolution images collected by Academy divers in the field, Expedition Reef digitally recreates coral reef environments for a truly immersive, full-dome experience.

“Collaborating on a reef-themed planetarium show has been a fun and exciting challenge,” says Academy curator and Hope for Reefs co-leader Dr. Rebecca Albright. “The incredible level of detail in each scene is backed by cutting-edge research. Global coral reefs are being pushed to their limits, and this show lights a path forward by highlighting the value and importance of saving these precious ecosystems.”

For a truly global perspective, Expedition Reef zooms (way) out to visualize reefs on a planetary scale. Although coral reefs line about a third of tropical coastlines, these “hot spots” cover less than just one percent of the world’s oceans. The show explores how global threats like rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification are impacting reef ecosystems in real-time, showing how corals under stress respond to these conditions, while sharing how scientists who study coral reefs and communities who depend on their economic benefits are finding solutions to keep reefs thriving in a changing world. Expedition Reef is part of the Academy’s Hope for Reefs initiative, which aims to explore, explain, and sustain the world’s coral reefs by making fundamental breakthroughs in coral reef biology, developing new conservation and restoration techniques, and engaging the public through immersive exhibits and multimedia.

During every Morrison Planetarium show, a presenter will share a live update on personal actions visitors can take to help protect coral reefs through sustainable choices in our everyday lives.

After the show, planetarium guests can continue their coral reef experience—the Academy will also debut a brand new Hidden Reef aquarium gallery on March 16, featuring diverse reef residents, like flamboyant cuttlefish, charismatic frogfish, dwarf moray eels, and more. Through vibrant, kid-friendly graphics, visitors will learn how these fascinating species use camouflage to survive and thrive in bustling reef ecosystems. Just around the corner, daily coral reef dive shows at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm will now feature additional seating space for visitors of all ages and new crystal-clear monitors that showcase the Academy’s coral reef inhabitants closer than ever before.

Expedition Reef will play six to ten times daily in Morrison Planetarium starting Friday, March 16. For a daily schedule and to see additional coral reef-themed programming, visit the Academy’s daily calendar online.

About the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining, and sustaining life on Earth. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and education—all under one living roof. Admission to the Academy is: $35.95 for adults; $30.95 for youth ages 12 to 17, Seniors ages 65+, and students with valid ID; $25.95 for children ages 4 to 11; and free for children ages 3 and younger. Admission fees include all exhibits and shows. Hours are 9:30 am - 5:00 pm Monday - Saturday, and 11:00 am - 5:00 pm on Sunday. During peak periods, including holiday and summer weekends, extended hours and peak pricing may apply. Visit www.calacademy.org or call (415) 379-8000 for more.

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