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Joanna Smart's September Photo Journal: An Our World Underwater Rolex Scholar Journey

This month, I headed to an unlikely diving destination, the Italian Riviera, to participate in a unique and visionary project.

In 2012, the Nemo’s Garden underwater agriculture site was established by the Ocean Reef Group in Noli, Italy.


The purpose of the project is to experiment with growing terrestrial plants underwater in specially designed biodomes. The project aims to create an alternative system of agriculture, specially dedicated to those areas where environmental conditions, economical, or morphologic reasons make growing plants extremely difficult.


During my time in Noli, I was helping with the general upkeep and maintenance of the biospheres, which are essentially underwater greenhouses. Another aspect of my work was documenting the species who call the structures home. Aside from producing plants, the structures also act as artificial reefs, attracting all manner of species to the area. I was able to document 42 different species living on the reef and used my Panasonic Lumix GX9 to photograph and identify each individual.



I found the Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ III lens with the Compact Macro Converter-1 (CMC-1) very useful during this experience. Many of the creatures I was documenting were very small, including gobies, hermit crabs and fan worms. Being able to capture each species with so much detail allowed for much easier and more precise species identification than would have otherwise been possible.