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Expedition Reef

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 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-worldly 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  ne 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.


Produced by the California Academy of Sciences
Producer California Academy of Sciences
Original title Expedition Reef
Duration 45 minutes
Language Main show in German
Translation translated to f / i / e (headphones)
Recommended minimum age age 8
At the end of the main show there will be a live presentation (in German only) featuring the current night sky and astronomical events.Doors open 10 minutes before the start. The screening will start on time. No admission is possible after the start of the show. To be on the safe side, please allow 20 minutes to buy tickets and get to the planetarium.

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