Art Contest: Coral Reef Ecosystems and Tourism

The Social and Environmental Research Institute (SERI) is conducting research in Puerto Rico on coral reefs and tourism. We are documenting the degree to which snorkelers and divers engage in behavior that could be damaging to the coral reefs of Puerto Rico. We will also measure the effectiveness of reef etiquette messages at changing people’s underwater behavior. We believe that a positive message can help build awareness to keep the reefs healthy and still serve as attractive places for tourists and local residents to visit and recreate.

We would like artists to help us create coral reef etiquette messages. Specifically, we want images for one side of underwater paper cards sized 3.67 inches by 4.25 inches. The cards will be loaned to tourists and residents who snorkel or dive at the coral reefs in Puerto Rico.

What we are looking for:

  • Symbols, drawings, photographs, paintings or collages
  • Must be scannable or provided in digital form (tiff or pdf)
  • Finished size will be 3.67 inches by 4.25 inches, one sided
  • Must be clearly visible, easy to see underwater
  • Cards must be understandable by people from many different cultures and countries. Text in English or Spanish should be brief, if any.

Suggestions for content:

  • Messages can be positive (showing proper snorkeling behavior) or negative (diagonal cross out line).
  • An image of a snorkeler’s hand print on a brain coral.
  • A snorkeler holding onto a broken piece of branch coral.
  • A snorkeler reaching out to touch fire coral.
  • A snorkeler who is vertical in shallow water and standing on a coral reef.
  • A snorkeler who is horizontal in the water and swimming over the reef without touching any part of the reef.
  • A snorkeler whose fin scrapes the coral reef.
  • A snorkeler touching marine life (eels, anemone, starfish).
  • A snorkeler who is sitting on a coral reef.
  • Check out the SERI website for more information about the project, images of snorkeler behaviors, and other ideas for artwork.

Other comments:

  • One problem is that snorkelers go into the water with friends and then tread water in a vertical position so that they can talk to their friends. While they are vertical, they often kick the reef or cause silt to spread all over the reef.
  • Touching coral can kill it and leave a permanent fingerprint or handprint.
  • People can get hurt by touching things like urchins, eels, fire coral.
  • People can scrape and cut themselves, which often happens when waves or currents push them into the coral.
  • People like to feed fish, but that disrupts the local ecosystem when it is done too frequently.
  • People stand or sit on reefs when they get tired or when water gets into their snorkel or mask. Instead, they should go to deep water and tread water, swim to shore, or head back to the boat.


  • Submit actual pieces or digital photos, files, or scans. Remember, it will be printed on a 3.67 x 4.25 inch card.
  • Should be understandable to people of all cultures and languages.
  • Any submitted images must be original work and the right of the artist to reproduce.


Six to ten images will be chosen and used on the back of the fish identification cards. SERI will include a reef etiquette message along with the selected images. SERI staff will evaluate all entries first. The final winners will be selected by SERI staff with input from our partners: tour operators, the Dept of Natural and Environmental Resources in Puerto Rico, The Caribbean Coral Reef Institute, and Puerto Rico Sea Grant.


  • Please include the following information on the back of your artwork: artist name, address, phone number, e-mail, age (if under 21), artist’s signature, parent’s signature (if artist is under 18).
  • Entries must be postmarked by March 22, 2011
  • Please submit artwork to:
    Dr. Thomas Webler
    278 Main Street
    Suite 404
    Greenfield, MA 01301
    Or by e-mail to: [email protected]
  • Questions? Please contact Karin Jakubowski at [email protected]


  • Each winning artist will receive a $50.00 Visa, Amex or cash gift card


  • Submitted artwork will become the property of the Social and Environmental Research Institute (SERI).
  • SERI anticipates printing 2,000 copies of the images and distributing them in Puerto Rico to tourists throughout 2011.
  • No submitted artwork will be returned unless return addressed postage and packaging is provided. Artwork can also be picked up at the SERI office in Greenfield, MA.
  • SERI is not responsible for damage or loss that may occur during the mailing process.
  • Artwork can be used by SERI for other non-profit educational purposes.
  • Under no circumstance will SERI sell or otherwise make a financial profit off of your artwork. It is solely intended for research purposes.
  • Each winner will receive a copy of the final product.

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