How can corals hear? An interview with Steve Simpson

Professor Simpson has spent the last decade studying how bioacoustics affect coral ecosystems

By Google Arts & Culture

Marine biologist Steve Simpson

Professor Simpson: coral reef fishes talk to each other

Steve is a Professor of Marine Biology at the Univ. of Bristol, UK. He studies the behaviour of coral reef fishes, bioacoustics and the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems. 

His group's paper "The Sound of Recovery" shows how restoration can be monitored through sound.

Deep-sea CoralsOriginal Source: Acuario de Sevilla

Steve Simpson - How can corals hear?

How can corals hear?

"Corals are covered in tiny hairs which get moved by sound. That movement gives the coral the ability to detect the direction of the sound. And these corals are able to cue into the soundscape of a healthy reef, which means healthy life."

Calling in our corals: scientists diving by Mary Shodipo

Corals are overheating, but sounds can help them recover.

Steve's team has discovered that certain frequencies can be played to call corals and life back to damaged reefs and dramatically accelerate underwater regeneration. 

Calling in our corals: placing microphones in the Sharm El Sheikh reef by Mary Shodipo

Steve Simpson - my first dive

What was the first reef you've ever seen?

"When I first put my head down in a coral reef in Mozambique, I was hooked."

Coral Reef, Great Fringing Reef, Egypt by The Ocean Agency / Anett SzasziThe Ocean Agency

Steve Simpson - the COP27 experience

The COP27 experience

"This was my first time seeing the Red Sea, which is full of stunning and healthy coral reef. It's imperative we put all our efforts to protect it."

Calling in our corals: an example of unhealthy coral reef by Mary Shodipo

Steve Simpson - help us understand what corals are telling us

How can people help with your research?

"By bringing in citizen scientists we are able to process more of these recordings and make new, exciting discoveries."

calling in our corals

Become a citizen scientist.

Lend marine scientists your ear and train your ear to determine if a reef sounds healthy. And then travel virtually to the reef to analyse its soundscapes, taking part to the first collective study on marine protected areas.

Launch the experience.

Calling in our corals is part of the Heartbeat of the Earth initiative of Google Arts & Culture's Lab, a series of experiments using art and technology to make climate data more accessible.

Explore Calling in our corals here.
Read Mary's interview
Discover the role of citizen scientists in cutting-edge ocean research

Credits: Story

Thanks to Mary Shodipo and Steve Simpson for their collaboration.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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