March 5, 2021

Life on an Oyster Reef | The Nature Conservancy Australia

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) was successful in securing a $5,000 grant from Inspiring SA to develop a digital animated shellfish reef tool to visually communicate to the public how restored shellfish reefs grow. The activities involved hiring a digital artist to develop the following:

  1. Eight illustrated images – of oyster reef development stages (year 0 to 7) based on the conceptual descriptions provided by TNC and marine ecologists
  2. Animated images – showing reef development over the seven-year period ; and
  3. Life on an oyster reef interactive tool* – featuring an interactive scroll bar and multiple pop-up windows which have the capabilities to show text, photos, audio and videos of the reefs.

*  Please note that the app is best viewed on Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Safari internet desktop browsers. If you’re viewing the page on mobile, the animation will be displayed as a video.


This is the only interactive conceptual model of a subtidal shellfish reef. This has been shared with our international and interstate restoration colleagues who have admired it so much they are now using the same artist to develop similar illustrated images depicting intertidal oyster reefs.

The illustrations and videos are a valuable resource that restoration practitioners are using to discuss shellfish reef restoration at public talks, university lectures and through printed materials such as project management plans and brochures. Key examples include:

  1. MOD museum exhibition: the animation video is currently displayed as part of the It’s complicated exhibition open from February to November 2021 that unpacks complex systems like rebuilding natural ecosystems.
  2. YourSay Public consultation for a new shellfish reef for Adelaide: The animation was a key resource used during TNC’s and Department for Environment and Water’s public consultation period (February to March 2020) for the new shellfish reef in Adelaide. The animated images were a key resource on the SA government’s YourSAy website to show the stages of shellfish reef development.
  3. Adelaide metropolitan shellfish reef brochure: The illustrated reef images were featured in a project information brochure that communicated the benefits of a new restoration project at Glenelg.

This tool will continue to be valuable and relevant for our communication strategies as we restore more shellfish reefs across Australia over the next three-years as part of the $20 million Australian government-funded Reefbuilder program.

Life on an Oyster Reef Video