A Giant Moment in Time


Photograph by Clark Morgan

Art of Science: A Giant Moment in Time

FAU Graduate Student Photographs Goliath Grouper Under the Sea

More than 100-feet beneath the surface in Jupiter, Fla., while scuba diving on a shipwreck, FAU graduate student Clark Morgan photographed a giant Atlantic goliath grouper surrounded by a school of bait fish, called round scad. This image was a top winner in the 2022 annual Art of Science photography and video contest, hosted by FAU’s Division of Research.

The 2023 Art of Science contest is now open for submissions, with numerous categories including the category called In-the-Field, which is the category Morgan has earned two years in a row.

Morgan, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and the FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, captured the winning image while diving during a research expedition to better understand the contentious conservation conversations about goliath grouper fishery management between anglers and the ecotourism-based dive industry.

These mammoth fish aggregate in large numbers during their seasonal spawning in the fall. The grouper are social animals during this time of the year, and during the day courtship can be observed while spawning takes place at night, normally around new moons. “It can be tempting to chase after the grouper to get closer, but this often pushes them further away,” Morgan said. “For this particular shot, I was focusing on shooting video and images of other goliath groupers that were hovering in the water column above the sand off of the main shipwreck. When I turned my attention back to the wreck, there was a large individual behind me covered in a ball of round scad (Decapterus punctatus) that are egg predators - they hang around the fish waiting for them to spawn.”

Morgan swam underneath the individual, photographing with his mirrorless Sony A7C camera with a wet wide-angle lens that allowed him to get very close to the subject. Despite only one of his underwater lights working, he was able to get proper illumination, he said. “I’m excited for what I can imagine for my next encounter – my favorite shot is the next shot,” he said.

“I believe photography is one of mankind's most significant inventions, as it provides a means to share perspectives across a priceless platform: reality,” Morgan said. “The camera takes the photo, but the photographer makes the photo. I feel that my conservation research efforts and photography can symbiotically speak together to provide awareness and inspiration.”

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