Here's What Drifts Through Just One Cubic Foot Of Water On A Coral Reef Every Day


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockMar 14 2016, 20:26 UTC
398 Here's What Drifts Through Just One Cubic Foot Of Water On A Coral Reef Every Day
One cubic foot of life from Monterey Canyon, California. David Liitschwager, Steve Haddock, Karen Osborn and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute/Smithsonian

With the help of scientists from the Smithsonian, photographer David Liittschwager has created a project called “Life in One Cubic Foot,” which details how just a cubic foot of space can be brimming with hundreds of species.

The project samples are from New York City’s Central Park, the coral reefs of French Polynesia, and the Monterey Submarine Canyon, just 18 meters (60 feet) from the California coastline. This last placement is perhaps the most interesting of all. A one-cubic-foot cube was hung from a remotely operated underwater vehicle, in which 5 kilometers (3 miles) of water would drift through the cube over the course of a normal spring day, with more than 200 animals large enough to see on camera.


After documenting the creatures that entered the cube over a 24-hour period, the photographer created a composite image of the numerous species.

 Tamae Reef off the Pacific island of Mo’orea. Image credit: David Liittschwager/Smithsonian

Creatures from Mo’orea, French Polynesia​. Image credit: David Liittschwager/Smithsonian

The Smithsonian and Liittschwager also hope to inspire some citizen science with this project by helping you make your own cube in order to uncover the biodiversity in your own backyard or local area. You can then share your findings with experts on the iNaturalist website.  


You can check out Liittschwager’s project at a 102-square-meter (1,100-square-foot) exhibition at the Focus Gallery of the Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

NYC's Central Park. Image credit: David Liittschwager/Smithsonian

A selection of creatures from the Central Park, New York, location. Image credit: David Liittschwager/Smithsonian

  • tag
  • biodiversity,

  • photography,

  • ecosystems,

  • smithsonian