Art & Oceans
Exhibition Catalogue 2018
In association with Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge, and in collaboration with the University of Otago, the Dunedin School of Art, and the Otago Museum.
In association with Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge, and in collaboration with the University of Otago, the Dunedin School of Art, and the Otago Museum.
Exhibition Catalogue 2018
Exhibition 23rd July - 5th August 2018
H D Skinner Annex, Otago Museum
Curated by Pam McKinlay and Jenny Rock
In collaboration with the University of Otago, the Dunedin School of Art, and the Otago Museum
In association with Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge
Tackling the complexities of our changing marine environment, artists and scientists have collaborated for several months to produce new generative interactions between art and science. They have created final works that interpret and extend science research in new contexts for this exhibition 'ART + OCEANS' in the H D Skinner Annex, 2018. Following in the footsteps of successful 'ART + SCIENCE' Projects over the previous years, in the 'Art + Oceans' Project, artists worked with scientists individually or in small groups, to develop artworks relating to science interpreted in a broad context. The work in 'ART + OCEANS’ is exceptionally diverse, including a wide range of visual and acoustic art as well as live performance and communitygenerated artwork from a satellite project ('Oko Moana') associated with the 2018 Dunedin International Science Festival.
This large group exhibition represents collaborative work from 29 artists (including graduates, staff and senior students of the Schools of Art, Design and Creative Studies at Otago Polytechnic and Te Wānganga o Aotearoa) and 20 scientists from the University of Otago (from Surveying, Physics, Anatomy, Chemistry, Botany, Marine Science, Zoology, Te Koronga (Indigenous Science) Physical Education), as well as the Cawthron Institute, Landcare Research, NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) and the University of British Columbia. Several national research programmes are represented, including CARIM (Coastal Acidification- Rate, Impacts & Management) and the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge. As part of its commitment to public outreach the Sustainable Seas Challenge (http:// sustainableseaschallenge.co.nz) has provided support for a component of the artworks in 'ART + OCEANS' to be transportable, to enable some of the exhibition to travel.
A further development in the 'ART + OCEANS' Project was a blurring of the boundaries within the art and science collaborations. In several instances scientists were also artists, and some worked actively as both throughout, while others collaborated as scientists but then created their own artistic response to the artist’s response to their science. Some artist’s worked with multiple scientists from different departments and facilitated new scientific collaborations. Throughout, both artists and scientists were involved in sharing their process and describing their work in monthly communal meetings. It has been a long rich journey and we hope it enriches your thoughts and involvement in helping to solve the huge challenges our vital marine world faces.Pam McKinlay and Jenny Rock, Co-ordinators
Evidence is accumulating around the world that subtle but cumulative impacts can profoundly change marine ecosystems. These changes are often called ‘tipping points’ and rapidly alter the way ecosystems function putting at risk the many benefits we enjoy from estuaries and coasts. The Tipping Points project is exploring how estuaries respond to sediment and nutrient loading, two of the most important land-based stressors affecting our coasts. These stressors have intense localised effects; smothering shellfish beds, reducing
water clarity and promoting blooms of nuisance macroalgae. We know that small but cumulative changes can radically change how marine ecosystems work, but we do not yet know how to assess these risks. A team of scientists across New Zealand are conducting the science required to assess the risk of these profound changes before they happen. The science aims to identify what activities are likely to cause threshold changes and what parts of the ecosystem are likely to be most affected.
Candida’s research aims to reveal how subtle changes can have cumulative effects. The interactions between things can cause radical changes in marine ecosystems, often the result of quite minor changes, from the stressors that we impose on them. If it can be predicted before the loss of functioning of systems, it can be managed it better. I am interested in the ‘Tipping Points’ project because it is linked to the management and value of these systems.
The inspiration for the piece comes from the Benthic Flux chamber experiments conducted at Blueskin Bay. The scientists incubated a set area of sediment and overlying water, measuring the exchange of nutrients and oxygen to assess nutrient processing rates and photosynthesis. In the lab, I saw plates of samples put into a reader which fluoresces, a beam of light comes down and measures how much light is coming off it -- the more light it gives off, the stronger that signal. The machine measures the intensity of that light, the higher the intensity, the more an enzyme is reacting. These enzymes get stimulated by bacteria, bacteria tell a really important story. The changes they are looking at are so minute -- fluorescence in action, the human eye cannot see it,
but the machine tells you it is there. In response to Candida’s work, I created my own ‘chamber’. This box is made with a painted world inside, the fluorescent colours representing the scientific experiments and making visible what I imagine is unseen by the human eye. The painted work shows the interconnectedness between things as a series of encounters, as the marine systems are driven by what is happening in the sediment but flows up through the whole system.
The Blueskin Bay / Waiputai estuary is a constantly changing place, affected on a daily basis by tides and weather, and by longer-term shifts in climate and land use. As part of the national Tipping Points project, Candida Savage and her team are collecting and analysing samples to study how the estuary responds to the stressors of excess nutrients and sediment.
I’ve collected samples of materials from the area of the estuary: clays, sand, ochre, shells and organic matter. I’ve used these to create ceramic and drawing based works, investigating the properties of these materials and combining them in different proportions. I aim to create art works that explore both the natural processes of erosion and sedimentation that take place in the estuary, and the experimental methods of science.
“Hui-te-ananui: Understanding Kaitiakitanga in our Marine Environment” is a Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge project which examined kaitiakitanga of the marine environment and its implications for resource management today. Kaitiakitanga is often described as guardianship, but the meaning is much richer than that. It comes from the word ‘tiaki’, which means to guard and preserve, to shelter, nurture and to support. Perhaps the most part of kaitiakitanga is spiritual guardianship. The project aimed to examine mātauranga (Māori knowledge) and how it applies to marine environment management. The authors examined pūrākau or tribal creation narratives, pēpeha, whakapapa and tikanga for example. The main finding of the project was that Māori have a hononga tāngaengae an unbroken connection to the marine environment.
The picture provided is the Te Koronga logo which was designed by Mr Keanu Townsend (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Kahu o Whangaroa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Wai, Te Roroa). Keanu describes the logo in the following way:
This design embodies kaitiakitanga, Matariki, knowledge of the sky, astronomy and navigation. The mountaintops signify striving for success and reaching the summit, which also represent the three baskets of knowledge. The manaia represents guardianship of the elements for next generations. The fish scales represent the ocean. The harakeke represents the land and the unity of different iwi. Pūhoro represent the flow of life and connects all of the elements together (personal communication, Keanu Townsend, October 2016).
The Bull and the Burning Ocean was first performed during the International Science Festival and Puaka Matariki in July 2018.
One of the cornerstones of science is to further knowledge. We are encouraged to explore, discover and share old and new knowledge that surrounds us, as in the three baskets of knowledge from Io According to pūrākau (ancient stories) the kete are never completely filled and there is always space for continued learning.
The Bull and the Burning Ocean presents a series of vignettes from the perspective of creatures who inhabit the sea through an enactment of their lives. We imagine their thoughts and state of being as they fight for survival in their world undergoing rapid changes caused by global warming. This was drawn from research by Sustainable Seas scientists, Candida Savage and Anne-Marie Jackson, plus CARIM researchers, Anna Kluibenschedl and Ro Allen.
The performance is set amongst a sea-scape of sea-bleached and ceramic shells. The ceramic shells were fired in a raku kiln embedding the carbon from the firing. We then attached slips of paper containing whakatauki relating to care for the ocean environment.
The whakatauki came from collections of historical archives. These are rich in traditional Māori knowledge which can help develop indicators for contemporary marine management: how to maintain the inherent balance of the natural world, how to protect and care for all that exists and how to maintain its potential and ensure wise management and conduct (for example in the use of mātaitai calendars).
The relationship between the tangata and the environment embraces a spiritual connection enacted through kaitiakitanga. Kaitiakitanga in the domain of Tangaora is guardianship, care and wise management of the marine resource, including noting resource indicators such as when the ‘resource’ indicates the state of its own mauri. Mauri signifies the life-supporting capacity of an ecosystem.
To paraphrase a well-known whakataukiHe moana, I ngaro ai te tangata.
Georgia learnt first-hand how targeted research can benefit Māori communities working alongside whānau from Puketeraki Marae in Karitane on a research project investigating faecal contamination in the Karitane estuary and the effect on kaimoana. “My research developed from the concerns of this community around whether their kaimoana was safe to eat. The research looks at faecal contamination going into estuaries after rainfall and identifying if there is any contamination of shellfish. The project includes developing source-tracking methods to identify where the faecal matter came from, and targets the community’s questions, such as ‘how long does it take cockles and mussels to get rid of what they’ve taken up out of the water?’
“Learning how to work alongside and engage with the community in this kind of work is important.
As Māori researchers, we say we want to take our learning back to our people – but what does that mean? and how do you do that? Learning how to form relationships with our communities is vital, because our people – our aunties and uncles – are in tune with their environment and have a lot to contribute to academia and how research is driven. Our people were scientists. A lot of our tikanga developed from mātauranga relating to our environment. It’s an old kaupapa to look after our marine environment, and it’s something that our ancestors wanted – to ensure there is kaimoana for future generations, and to look after the other inhabitants we share this world with.
Georgia Bell (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Marutūahu and Hauraki). Georgia has a Master of Science from the University of Otago in in Marine Science.
There are two works of art which make up this exhibition piece. Combined they are “E aha ana te aha?” (What’s going on?)
Ngā Kaitiaki, Poupou carved from Custom board with acrylic paint
There are three Kaitiaki (guardians of the ocean), the most famous being Tangaroa with Kiwa on his right and Kaukau on his left. Hinemoana, the personified form of the ocean, is represented through the colours used. Tinirau, in some kōrero, is the son of Tangaroa who is represented at the bottom of the carving close to his pet whale Tutunui. The pātiki (flounder) designs painted onto the carving are a memorial to the decline of this food source, from the time when 70 fisherman on the Otago harbour made their living from the catch, to there being none today. This poupou is standing above the broken patu essentially asking you, me, us, “What’s going on? Why is this patu broken? Why do you continue to allow my children to be poisoned?”
Although this patu is clearly not an adze the analogy is obvious. Like the mischievous child, who has either purposefully or accidentally broken a treasure that cannot be easily fixed or replaced, the human race, in all its carelessness, has taken our taonga - the ocean, the rivers, the earth - and have managed to do irrefutable damage letting such waste into the environment that a simple and beautiful thing such as rainfall allows more human shit (literally) to flow into our waters and percolate into our kaimoana. My questions to you - “Is this broken carving still a taonga?” And “ Can we fix this?”
“E aha ana te aha?”Patu carved from Rimu carved from Rimu, “He pōtiki whatiwhati toki” – a child who breaks the adze
DL I was drawn to depicting your research on mussels as one of my best memories of my father was of him arranging mussel shells on the beach and building a “Musselhenge” in the sand. He transferred these into a sand-filled lid and it was my task to hold this upright on a 400 mile trip back home. This became the maquette for a 4m high metal mussel sculpture, which scandalised our neighbours for years, much to my delight.
DL How does ocean acidification impact on mussels?
NR In Aotearoa we are fortunate enough to have the major CARIM (Coastal Acidification: Rate, Impacts & Management) research programme that is allowing us to address this question thoroughly. Results so far suggest a real dichotomy; the first two days of life are sensitive to even very subtle changes, whereas other life stages seem remarkably resilient. We even see evidence of Lamarckian-style conferral of resilience from parents to offspring.
DL Can you tell me something about the structure of the shell?
NR The shell is constructed from aragonite, the amazing biomaterial we know as Mother-of-Pearl. Beyond its iridescent beauty, it is also one of the hardest substances in nature. Unfortunately, ocean acidification is uncovering aragonite’s Achilles heel.
DL You said something about the strength of the shell is also its weakness. What did you mean by that?
NR Aragonite is a flat crystal arrangement of calcium carbonate that happens to be sensitive to pH. Even modest ocean acidification, predicted to occur over the coming decades, is enough to make this structure unstable.
DL This paradox of the shell’s strength also being its weakness made me want to test this, so I soaked some mussel shells in vinegar. After 12 hours, the outer brown part of the shell started to peel off like a skin, leaving the nacre exposed on the outside. After 6 weeks, the shell had largely disappeared and I was left with what I imagine are calcium carbonate crystals, which certainly made me understand what acidification does.
DL You speak of the mussel as being enigmatic. I am interested in what lies within. Tell me more about the creature that resides within the shell.
NR The shell hides complexity and mystery. We get some sense of this while working with the babies; the free-swimming larvae are fast and voracious,
Newly settled Greenshell mussel (Perna canaliculus) juveniles, less than 5mm long, demonstrating their proactive response to ocean acidification: open wide, extend siphons and eat, eat, eat… Increased energy reserves can help fuel shell growth, even when the environment is unfavourable.
ultimately transforming into sensor-laden juveniles that crawl and, amazingly, fly from reef to reef using, thread parachutes. In the adult, all of this awareness and idiosyncrasy is still present… within a shell.
DL Artistically, I have been bent on thinking of the mussel as the shell, largely ignoring that which lies within. But between our converations and my rereading of Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space (1958), I have started to understand (in Bachelard’s words) “ the obvious dynamism of these extravagant figures lies in the fact that they come alive in the dialectics of what is hidden and what is manifest.”
NR Mussels could save the world. Mussel aquaculture is arguably the only meat production system with a negative carbon footprint, mussel reefs can clear away the excess algae produced by agricultural pollution and mussel shells could be used to buffer ocean acidification. Mussel attachment threads, glue and aragonite are inspiring remarkable biomimicry engineering, while the animal itself retains sufficient secrets to challenge generations of future scientists.
DL Your passion for mussels extends beyond the hard science and touches on the metaphysical nature of the mussel. What is your response to that?
NR A challenging question. Metaphorically and physically mussels represent paradox. What is clearly apparent/external is robust and simple. What is hidden/internal is profoundly mysterious and vulnerable. For me the distinction in perspectives epitomises the nature of courage: Do we reduce the world to ‘robust truths’ or are we brave enough to confront the unknown and accept guardianship of the fragile and ephemeral? Our conversation has taken us beneath the shell in diverse and profound ways; how do you feel this journey can be captured by the artist?
DL My journey of understanding of the mussel has led me to appreciate that the creature that lies within its shell cradle is a being of nuance and, as you say, courage, and not just a fleshy lump. I want to interpret the being that resides within the cradle of the shell.
My research bridges marine microbial ecology and biochemistry. I study the extracellular enzymatic activity (EEA) of marine microbes. Microbes have size limitations to their cell membranes, so they have to break down the required organic matter outside the cell, prior to uptake. Microbial EEA has been recognised in recent years as the rate limiting step in the remineralisation of organic matter in the oceans. EEA’s have earned the title “gatekeepers of the carbon cycle” playing essential roles in the global biogeochemical cycles which regulate the earth’s climate. This process also initiates the microbial loop which underpins the productivity and stability of the oceanic food webs.
With a background in philosophy, moving later into microbial ecology, I became aware of the remarkable ubiquity of microbes and their overarching ecological influences. Both externally, out in the wider ecosystems, as well as internally though the apprehension of microbiomes. This
knowledge provides some framework for rethinking the question: What is ecological awareness and how does it relate to art? Thinkers such as Timothy Morton and Slavoj Žižek speak at length about the notion of “ecology without nature” which challenges the ontological divide between humanity and “nature”. For Morton, the emerging sense of ecological awareness we are experiencing is revealing our “radical intimacy” with other beings, our interconnectedness.
Oceans, like humans are ubiquitous with microbial life, part of an inescapable background. We have included seawater samples in our painting media as a reference to this powerful new paradigm of microbial ecology, mediating ecological relationships. Thomas Lord and I have collaboratively painted for many years. This opportunity to collaborate by mixing microbial ecology and art seemed like a clear progression for us.
With Blair’s insight into marine microbial ecology we decided to begin a collaborative painting which would allow us to observe forms which mimic those found in the “natural world”. These forms appear as we mixed and agitated mediums containing millions of microbes onto the painting surface. I also planned to photograph these interactions by recording the early stages of application and after visiting Blair in the lab, possibly some more controlled microscopic photography.
We have been painting together for a number of years now and I look back to earlier works and think about conversation. Not only a conversation between the mediums used on the canvas but also the conversations we’ve had while working together and the different spaces we’ve painted in. For this work my garage close to the Otago Harbour provides a space where conversations surrounding ecology are informing our painting
process. Collected seawater from down the road is washing over water based paint as it discovers a path around the surface. Other areas of paint which I now understand to contain countless microbes are changing before our eyes as they follow a similar direction inviting colour and form from their neighbouring gestures. I notice that foliage from outside is now casting a shadow over the painting, leaves are moving in unison with the wet surface. We step back and without a word acknowledge that it’s time to stop for the day knowing full well that as we exit the space the interaction and movement of the painting will continue and take on new forms in our absence.
I’ve really enjoyed our latest collaboration. Not only have I learned more about Blair’s current research but it has also made me more aware about what it means to be ecological and how this can relate to art.
The bioavailability of copper to biota, with respect to both toxicity and necessity, is generally correlated to the free copper-ion concentration in the water column. The level of free copper ions in the water column is strongly mediated by the presence of copper-complexing ligands, which alleviate metal limitation and reduce toxicity to affected organisms, and geochemical conditions such as pH, temperature, salinity etc. For instance, low pH (i.e., ocean acidification) increases the free copper ion concentration in the water column and can thus potentially shift a system in a short amount of time from a healthy to a toxic state. All in all, the final fate of copper has to be determined a site-by-site basis, as varying local conditions prevent the generalization of copper toxicity over regions.
More research is necessary to investigate all aspects of copper-speciation (i.e., the range of chemical forms a metal is able to assume), fluxes and cycling in different aquatic environments to improve environmental risk assessments of copper in freshwater, estuarine, and marine systems as well as to establish unifying projections for our future oceans.
Hydrothermal vents are great study sites to investigate metal stress to biota in an unmanipulated “natural laboratory”. Hydrothermal systems along volcanic island arcs have mostly shallow water depths and strong magmatic input into their fluids and hydrothermal plumes. As these plumes often reach up into the productive photic zone, they discharge large quantities of material into the surface water layers. These systems are crucial to understanding the global elemental budget of micro-nutrients and toxic elements in the ocean, as well as helping scientists to clarify chemical and biological processes regarding metals in a natural multi-stressor environment. Shallow hydrothermal vents also provide a unique opportunity to investigate the impacts of ocean acidification and rising temperatures on metal-cycling and the effects of metals to aquatic organisms. – RebeccaZitoun
These “natural laboratories” were of particular interest to me. A visit to Rebecca’s lab space in Dunedin, complete with lab-coated scientists and chemical smells, highlighted the difficulties of applying the scientific research to real world scenarios. Nature has ways of reacting and adapting to harmful environments, and these naturallyoccurring labs give chemists a chance to observe these effects without disturbing native species. Marine organisms typically need a certain level of copper ions in their environment to function, but what happens when the level passes the threshold between healthy and toxic?
An artist’s workshop can be a lot like a laboratory. We start with an idea, a theory. Then we combine materials, mix chemicals, run tests, record the results, and then test again until we either get the result we want or find something we could never have predicted. These pieces are both laboratory and experiment, combining copper and silver to create curious hydrothermal environments where biota might struggle or thrive.
Where’s your lab?
White chinned petrels are killed in vast numbers as bycatch in commercial fisheries, yet there is still little known about this seabird on islands. They live on a string of remote and inaccessible islands around the Southern Ocean. My research focuses on the impacts of fisheries bycatch (as well as threats like introduced predators and climate change) on these seabirds, and what can be done about it.
I study things like where they go when they are at sea, how many there are, and how island populations are related (or not). Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest. We are only now finding out how many white-chinned petrels there are in the New Zealand region, and still do not know whether numbers are increasing, stable or declining. By tracking the wide-roaming movements of white-chinned petrels at sea, we can understand where and when petrels overlap with fisheries. Information can help focus conservation effort to where it is needed most, a crucial task in the vast wilderness of the Southern Ocean.
White-chinned petrels, a bird just out of our sight and mind and yet at home just a hundred meters off the coast.
This bird is a sea wanderer and has been a constant companion of fishermen for years. However, as commercial fisheries scaled up, small problems became big problems and small numbers of bycatch have now reached the unimaginable.
My work, in collaboration with Kalinka Rexer-Huber addresses our fisheries impact on the oceans, using the petrel to represent an ever-growing problem as we compete for the basic resource of food.
The work is made from discarded and old fishing gear, each hook with a history and story. Each hook has had the experience of the ocean and has had the potential to catch not only these birds but many other species, targeted and not. All in the name of consumption.
The work is suspended in space in the form of a diving petrel placing the viewer in the position of our sea life. Our environment is infiltrated by these sharp objects, intruding on our space and bringing what is beneath the surface to us. We are forced to observe and think about what impacts our actions have upon the environment, and what we can do to raise awareness for conservation and protection of species that are heavily impacted by our practices. So I ask, Are You Hooked Yet?
Long line fish hooks
Global climate change and parasitic infection may initially appear quite disparate processes, but they actually share many similarities, particularly in the marine environment. Parasites are a ubiquitous component of all marine ecosystems, and almost every marine species has at least one associated parasite species. Global climate change can alter the fundamental physical parameters that regulate all marine life, e.g. temperature, seawater pH, and oxygen availability, which will clearly affect the performance of many, if not all, marine species.
Climate change and parasites are also, in a way, undetectable; parasites are generally microscopic organisms, invisible to the naked eye or hidden within their hosts, while climate change is such a gradual process that it is almost imperceptible from the perspective of a single, human life-span. Nevertheless, both factors can have a huge impact on marine life. Parasites can dramatically alter the survival, reproduction, and behaviour of infected
organisms, and in each case these effects have evolved to maximise the probability of finding and infecting the next host in the parasite’s lifecycle. Global climate change, particularly ocean acidification, has also been shown to alter the survival, reproduction, and behaviour of many marine species, although without any evolutionary stimulus. Despite these similarities, the interaction of climate change and parasitic infection has received scant attention by marine researchers.
Parasites, like any marine organism, may be significantly affected by climate change, and this may alter the regulatory role that they play in many host populations, e.g. by sterilising infected individuals – a common consequence of infection. It remains unknown whether host or parasite species will prove more tolerant of the changing marine environment, but either result could substantially alter the structure of marine communities or the stability of marine ecosystems.
Limited observation of host-parasite relationships must be mediated by several channels. Light microscopes, video, artificial CO2 chambers, and fluorescent pigment absorbed by host snails are all used to visualise changes enacted by ocean acidification. Drawing to Discern Parasites aims to respond to these limitations, employing similar methods of visualisation to question our held values towards alienated parasitic worlds, as well as our perceptions of time based change that extends beyond an individual human position. Two video loops document attempts at representing various parasitic life stages. Durational drawings, made with fluorescent pigment in water over several hours, have been recorded from two angles. The first recording takes place above, where flattened forms are mapped on the water’s surface, reflecting perspectives common to real-world parasite observation. The second is from the side, where effects of surface mark making over time become evident.
As time passes, the drawing space becomes saturated with light. For phototactic parasites, a light source acts as a cue for action, either negative or positive. In Drawing to Discern Parasites the spreading glow poses a challenge to which the drawer must respond with closer and closer looking, as the results of the drawing process become more difficult to discern.
In the finite moment of the drawing’s making, concerns lie with responsive action in a shifting, multidimensional environment. As video documentation, resulting changes are made simultaneously viewable; two perspectives are realised, offering opportunity for ongoing consideration of non-human worlds and the changes affecting them.
We use atomic-scale changes in the nutrient abundance within deep ocean sediments to understand how their availability influenced the role of plankton in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over the past 140,000 years, and its implication for the future, during a rapidly changing climate.
Life within the oceans is capable of removing enormous quantity of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and permanently storing it in sediment on the sea floor. Plants, single celled plankton that exist in the very surface water of the oceans are a significant driving mechanism in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere globally. They use carbon dioxide, sunlight and nutrients during photosynthesis to produce the energy needed to survive. Once their lifecycle comes to an end, some of these plankton will sink to the sea floor, which leads to the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and into ocean sediments.
Recent advances in the understanding of plankton nutrient requirements in the oceans have shown that nutrients usually present in extremely small quantities, typically referred to as micro-nutrients, can be critical to their health. Modern technology now enables us to explore how these micronutrients can influence the ability of plankton to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. How climate can influence the availability of these micronutrients, and how these micro-nutrients then impact global climate as a result of the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by plankton.
We need to remember that the science behind global climate change must inform our individual behavior.
Currently we are facing the immense threat of climate change and are struggling to understand what it may mean to the species that inhabit the earth and ultimately to ourselves and our lifestyles. The work being undertaken on micro-nutrients that are preserved in ocean sediments, how they can be linked to the health of plankton communities within the ocean and the subsequent removal of carbon from the atmosphere fascinated me. The alignment of these nutrient records with other tracers of climate change, such as temperature, is captivating. I was attracted to the idea of portraying how this scientific data from the past can inform us on what may happen in the future.
Jewellery has always been associated with value. We also assign value to scientific knowledge but this can be ignored when vested interests or emotion are involved. The starting point for this work was to portray that the science being undertaken on the core samples from the ocean is worthy of being assigned immense value. I have chosen to transform the core sample into items of jewellery. In this way when an item is worn, the wearer and perhaps the viewer,
will be reminded of the immense value of scientific data within the core samples. As a consequence I hope that wearing this jewellery will remind us of our individual contribution to climate change and that our individual daily actions are important in mitigating climate change.
How can art relate to the physicality of time, as represented by a core sample?
What immediately interested me about Matt’s research was the physical process involved in extracting the information contained within the sediment. The core sample itself seemed to me to be like a historic artifact that diaries the life of that particular part of the ocean, and Matt is the Scholar, pouring over vast amounts of information to pick out what’s relevant to his study. The circular format of my work is a direct representation of not only the physical core sample but the cyclic nature of life, the climate and the world itself.
Iron, zinc and cadmium are all common pigments used in oil paint; red to yellow cadmium pigments, the deliciously earthy iron oxides and the bluish, translucent zinc oxide. The choice to work in oil primarily with a chromatic black made of iron rich burnt umber, cadmium yellow and an ultramarine, as well as zinc white is, again, a direct representation of chemical elements of this research. Through using the technique of very thin
glazes of paint I am simultaneously building my own diary of time spent and teasing out information that is held within paint, medium, brush and panel, building my own core sample. To tie these elements together I will then use old pigment grinding techniques to turn high biogenic calcium carbonate dominated sediment into oil paint.
When people fossick around in rock pools, or gaze about them while snorkelling, they tend to see the big things: fish, sea stars, urchins, snails. But there is a whole world of tiny animals in the sea, and marine bryozoans are among the most interesting. While an individual bryozoan is tiny, about the size of a pin point, groups of them together make
colonies that can be centimetres across or tall. In some places off Otago, bryozoan colonies are big enough to form spaces for other animals, including juvenile fish. Whole cool-water ecosystems rely on the calcareous reefs built by tiny animals, much like coral reefs in the tropics.
Microscopic images of bryozoans provide intriguing details of delicate structures, unseen by the naked eye. These geometric patterns build upon themselves, growing together to create the complex bryozoan colony. Given this fact, studio methodologies incorporating 3D technologies scanning, digital rendering and printing seemed best suited for my response.
The 3D scanner meticulously captures the minute textures from the surface of the bryozoans. The scanned data is then processed and manipulated using digital rendering software before being sent to the printer. The objects are printed in a lightweight plastic and cast in recycled silver. The final casting is intended to preserve the lasting preciousness of the wearable jewellery objects.
What is Abundant, diverse, widespread, beautiful, fascinating, little known, and totally inedible?
I am collaborating with Professor Abigail Smith, a Marine Geologist who works on the skeletal carbonate biogeochemistry (what shells are made of) and ocean acidification (how shells dissolve). She has an interest in the Bryozoans of the Otago Shelf.
After finding myself intrigued with the shapes, sizes, colours and textures of the Bryozoans found in Abby’s book Bryozoans of southern New Zealand: a field identification guide
A variety of fabrics, felts, netting, trims and threads have been used to recreate some of the locally collected samples.
But when looked at microscopically the Bryozoans are simple repeating modules starting with a single dot that is then repeated in an amazing variety of combinations to create the very complex individual Bryozoa. This can be visualized by looking at Tessellations (Esscher) or the modular construction created with Lego bricks into infinite possibilities.
We hope the viewer can take away an appreciation of the way in which nature has put together these very small but fascinating marine creatures.
This work is intended to show the effects of CO2 build up in the waters of the ocean. Colonies of bryozoans are losing their shells to acidification which limits their ability to produce the individual structures whithin which they live.
To create this piece I have used deconstructed printmaking processes and hand printing in combination with thickened dyes, print paste and the judicious use of scissors and thread. My aim is to illustrate the processes of disintegration and death through acidification and to raise awareness around this as it is our production of pollution that has endangered these creatures.
Carbon dioxide emissions are shifting the carbonate chemistry equilibria in the oceans. Although the ecological consequences of these changes are difficult to predict, the chemistry is straightforward: as atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, seawater pH decreases.
This simple relationship has a profound effect on calcium carbonate structures: when the pH becomes sufficiently low, these structures are no longer stable.
Using optical fibres, our laboratory studies the thermodynamics of this process. When do we see a breakdown of calcium carbonate? Why do we see dissolution when theory tells us the system is stable? How do our expectations change as we delve 1 km below the surface? 5 km? 10 km?
By exploring this “simple” chemical process, we are redefining the fundamental relationships that form the basis of our future ocean predictions.
Our oceans make up 70% of the earth’s surface. They are some of the most unexplored and abundant corners of the world, and we are contributing to their demise.
Our actions through carbon dioxide emissions, waste production and waste disposal, to name a few, are significant contributors to climate change; a world-wide problem caused by increases in temperature resulting in the warming of our oceans. At the same time, the oceans absorb increasing amounts of the carbon dioxide, which decreases pH levels (i.e. increases acidity). This decrease in pH is causing issues for many marine inhabitants, especially those with calcium carbonate shells and structures. This work is a response to this problem, known as ocean acidification.
One of the most beautiful ocean inhabitants are jellyfish. Their fluid-like movement through water is captivating. But what if the jellyfish became
encrusted with calcium carbonate? They might still possess their beauty, but that mesmerising movement would be lost. We know that ocean acidification will not cause encrustation of jellyfish. However, this work aims to provoke ideas and images of the extreme, to get the viewer to engage in the reality.
In the jellyfish, the fibre optics and crystals hint at the work being done by Dr Christina McGraw and her team, to understand how ocean acidification is affecting our marine environment. The jellyfish is made from a possible solution to part of our waste production problem: wool-a biodegradable, natural, organic alternative to many plastics and polymer materials. The rigidity of the crystallised pieces shows loss of function.
It is hoped that the beauty of this piece reminds the viewer of what an incredible marine world we have and get them thinking about what they can do to help preserve this.
The great carbon trappers: how does ocean acidification affect diatoms?
Diatoms are a group of single-cell microalgae, approximately 0.01 – 0.2 mm in size, which are common in the marine environment. Diatoms are ‘photosynthetic’, like land-plants. They are responsible for a large proportion of global oxygen production, and remove a significant amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Diatoms form intricate and ornate protective cases around their cells called ‘frustules’. These frustules are made from silica, which is the major component of glass, and are particularly important as they sink very quickly after a diatom cell dies. This sinking action means that much of the carbon stored in the diatom cell reaches the seafloor before it has decomposed. This carbon is then essentially removed from the global carbon cycle as it will stay trapped in seafloor sediments for thousands of years. This is the mechanism by which diatoms remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Diatoms are under threat from rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. As a result of human activity since the industrial revolution, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increasedby
approximately 50%. This carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolves into seawater making it more acidic, in a process called ‘ocean acidification’. Ocean acidification can have strong impacts on a range of marine organisms, but we have consistently observed diatoms being out-competed by smaller microalgae under acidified conditions. This means that the amount of diatoms in the ocean could decline dramatically over the next century. Declines diatom numbers may have consequences on a global scale, as less carbon will be trapped in seafloor sediments under future conditions. This could create a positive feedbackloop, meaning that the rate at which atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are rising will accelerate, as less carbon is being sequestered in seafloor sediments. Ultimately, diatoms are great regulators of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and their demise may have profound ramification for the rate of climate change over the coming century.
It is Ruth’s intention to portray the important role diatoms play in the global ecosystem, urging the audience to value these specimens as they would precious minerals such as gold and silver.
Through the discipline of contemporary jewellery, Ruth Evans will construct wearable objects based on diatoms sourced from the ocean samples located in the waters of Otago, 65km east off Taiaroa Head. Ro Allen has invited Ruth into the botany lab at the University of Otago where she has been able to participate in the activity of finding diatoms through the microscopic slides Ro has prepared. These are the specimens from which Ruth will base her work, exploring a number of
processes such as ‘investment casting’, sculpting and glazing. The intention is to construct glass forms which replicate the diatoms themselves, in colour and materiality, while up-scaling these microscopic organisms so they are visable to the human eye without the need of scientific equipment. Should this process not work, a back-up plan has been formulated, whereby which Ruth will sculpt the objects in a high-silica content clay, sourced from Far North’s Matauri Bay. The raw clay mined from the open-pits at Matauri Bay contains 50% silica and 50% halloysite, producing a clay body which is white and translucent when fired in the kiln. These forms are to be glazed and transformed into wearable jewellery objects.
Coccolithophores, and other marine phytoplankton, are responsible for 50% of the carbon fixation globally; fixing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis (and producing oxygen as a byproduct) during their lives and helping recycle organic carbon after death.
Coccolithophores make armoured plates (‘coccoliths’) from calcium carbonate. In addition to affecting pH, ocean acidification is decreasing the availability of carbonate needed, and in future
coccolithophores will struggle to grow properly, investing more energy in the process and getting ‘out-competed’ by green algae and cyanobacteria.
A reduction in the abundance of coccolithophores could dramatically decrease the amount of carbon being removed from the global carbon cycle and reduce the ability of the oceans to export and store carbon in deep sea sediments, such that the rate at which carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere will increase.
The great carbon trappers: how does ocean acidification affect Coccolithophores?
We use a variety of cutting, embossing and relief rubbing techniques to examine the differences between healthy and unhealthy coccolithophores and the effects of an acidifying ocean on their construction of the coccolith plates.
We (Lynn Taylor and Jenny Rock) explore the intricate strength and inherent vulnerability of these marine organisms so vital to our oceans and global ecosystem, and as ‘The Sandpit Collective’, invite the public to consider along with us during ‘Oku Moana’, Dunedin International Science Festival 2018. We share pieces of this co-created work here.
The Sandpit Collective use social arts to engage communities in reflecting about environmental issues and choices. We facilitate citizen artists to critically consider values and issues using arts practice centred around printmaking. And we help communities inspire other communities thesandpitcollective. wordpress.com/past-exhibitions/
Tidal turbines can generate electricity from the fast flowing tidal currents in the ocean that flow out of an estuary or harbour as the tide changes. I use the results of hundreds of computer simulations to work out how to build arrays of tidal turbines to generate the most power with the least environmental impact.
When tidal turbines are built, eddies come spinning off the ends of the turbine’s blades. Long rows of these eddies are called von Karman vortex streets.
When more turbines are built downstream, the eddies of the upstream turbines will flow through them. The flow is faster on one side of the eddy than the other. This causes the amount of electricity generated from a downstream turbine to change.
Here we are showing the beauty inherent in the solution of mathematical equations to describe fluid flow and how that relates to sustainable electricity generation as interpreted through art.
How do you map a Von Karman Vortex Street?
How do you map a Von Karman Vortex Street? Physicist Tim Divett spends his time using powerful computers to solve the mathematical equations that describe fluid dynamics. These show up as lovely coloured computer-generated visuals of his equations.
The concept of current generated power is one that I am very interested in, given the amount of ocean surrounding New Zealand. This, and the wonderful visuals produced by Tim in his introductory presentation immediately drew me towards his work.
The visuals that Tim showed were of eddies coming off turbine blades, which are called von Karman vortex streets.
I wanted to produce an art work that used movement to give visualization to the von Karman vortex street. After spending some time looking at fabrics, I chose lutradur, which is a very fine non-woven polyester cloth, to make my art work out of. It is stronger than its appearance suggests, and can be painted, sewn and heated to create textile artworks. I used several colours of blue, aqua and turquoise dyes and paints to colour the fabric, before using fabric foil glued to the fabric to represent the Von Karman Vortex Street.
The idea of the fan is to have the finished piece move as if it were under water, with the fan in place of a turbine.
Since the start of the industrial revolution, about 30% of the global carbon dioxide emissions have been taken up by the oceans. Termed Ocean Acidification, this uptake is causing changes in the chemical composition of the seawater. This process may affect many marine species, particularly calcifying ones. Predicted levels of Ocean Acidification by the end of the century will cause many organisms to face a multitude of challenges, such as shell dissolultion, reduced growth or increased competition.
My PhD research aims to understand effects of Ocean Acidification on Coralline Algae, bright pink algal crusts growing on rocks many beachgoers may be familiar with. Coralline algae, in contrast to other algae, form a hard carbonate structure and protect and consolidate the reef and offer habitat and protection for many invertebrates. New Zealand has a rich diversity of Coralline Algae, they form a dominant feature in the understorey of subtidal and have many important functions, but the predicted changes for our oceans may have sever negative impacts on these important ecosystem engineers.
Ocean Acidification has been shown to negatively affect many marine species, with the early-life stages of calcifying organisms being particularly sensitive to it. Most marine organisms, especially the ones that live attached to the substrate, reproduce through an indirect lifecycle that includes a free swimming larval stage. At the end of their swimming phase, the larvae settle onto their preferred settlement substrate (such as Coralline Algae) before metamorphosing. These are key moments in these animals’ lives, since their success at settlement will determine how sucessful they are as adults. Our research aims at understanding how Ocean Acidification might affect the settlement process of key NZ coastal species, including Paua, through direct mechanisms but also through indirect ones (such as changes in the settlement substrate).
Marine science often focuses on issues that are imperative to the future survival of earth, but are invisible to everyday people. The paua shell is a New Zealand icon, currently abundant in craft stores and gift shops. It is unique to this country, and is significant economically, culturally, and ecologically. Ocean acidification and human impact may affect the widespread availability of paua that we currently take for granted, and interrupt fragile ecosystems. Our work aims to make these changes visible.
Anna Kluibenschedl and Nadjejda Espinel Velasco‘s research takes a collaborative approach, combining Nadjejda’s research on the larval stage of marine invertebrates with Anna’s focus on the pink coralline that paua larvae favour for settlement. Artistically, this work was inspired by collaboration. Using Meg Van Hale’s jewellery techniques with Lucy Winton’s sculptural approach has resulted in interactive wearable objects displaying the ecological link between paua and coralline algae.
The work consists of several jewellery boxes covered in materials representing potential changes in coralline growth, as if they have been pulled from the sea at different times. In this context, the boxes become fantastical ocean treasures. The audience is left to discover their contents, and what they represent for future oceans.
The jewellery within the coralline algae covered boxes represents the saturated use of paua in tacky kitsch jewellery. The pieces are excessive, bulky, impractical to wear, and dripping with paua shell. The boxes lacking the vivid crusty pink growth tell another story. Solitary pieces represent a future where the ocean and status of paua has changed. It questions the lack of value humans place on common species, until they are not common anymore.
What Do You Foresee? is a call to protect what we have, before we do not have it at all.
The seafloor in Antarctic coastal areas are characterised by diverse, abundant, often spectacularly beautiful animals. Many different biological and physical factors combine to influence the types of animals living in these cold seas. Not least is the layer of sea ice that covers the ocean for many months of the year. This sea ice influences the amount of light that is available for photosynthesis by microscopic plants living below it, and so can have a strong control on the amount of food that is available for consumption by many organisms at the base of the food chain. In our studies of shallow water seafloor fauna and flora of the Ross Sea, we see large differences in communities depending on the properties of the sea ice that surrounds them.
Significant air and ocean warming has already been observed in other parts of the Antarctic, and there are predictions that several more degrees of warming could occur in the coming decades. These warming sea temperatures can alter sea ice dynamics, and will potentially affect sea ice characteristics and coastal productivity in a number of ways that will have flow on effects to the organisms living on, in and below it. By studying these animals, their habitats and environments, we can hope to gain significant insight into what these changes might be.Dr Vonda Cummings Principal Scientist - Marine Ecology NIWA
What lies beneath? An investigation into seafloor biota changes in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.
As a contemporary jeweller and object maker, with a background of working in marine biology, I was drawn to the work of Dr Vonda Cummings.
Dives below the sea ice at various sites in the Ross Sea, Antarctica, have identified some of the amazing creatures that live in this harsh environment. Often oversized and chimerical, they experience a phenomenon known as polar gigantism. This gigantism is thought to be the result of the high availability of oxygen, coupled with the fact that low temperatures slow animals’ metabolism down and reduce their need for oxygen.
Responding to the images taken of these animals, I have created 3 dimensional pieces using recycled and repurposed plastics and metals. The works are oversized, just like the animals themselves, and hover on the boundary of wearability. They seek to push the observer and wearer beyond their comfort zone.
These pieces support two, more traditionally-sized, brooches which represent the scientific use of quadrats in ecological studies. Animals typically seen within these sampling quadrats are depicted as layered silhouettes. Dr Cummings’ research has identified the way sea ice modifies the penetration of light into the water column, which in turn influences the production of the microscopic algal food that many of the organisms feed on. These brooches also respond to light. The top layer represents the density of species found under typical, non-ice breakup conditions. When the brooches are exposed to UV light, extra silhouettes become visible, illustrating the effect of increased light (and food) on the Antarctic seafloor habitat.
(Nudibranch), brooch, 120 x 50 x 70 mm, HDPE plastic (milk bottle), found wire, felt, thread, stainless steel. (Sea spider), brooch, 240 x 160 x 70 mm, repurposed brass rod, scrap sterling silver, salvaged fine silver, paint.
Bathymetric (depth) data that is used to create seafloor maps can provide a single snapshot in time, or form a series of observations that allow us to deduce change due to spatial and temporal processes. But mapping underwater is difficult: optical methods only work in shallow, clear water. Hydrographers require the use of echo sounders to make measurements where we cannot “see”.
Water is an ideal medium for acoustic propagation. In essence, modern multibeam echo sounders transmit an acoustic pulse and time how long it takes to return from hundreds of points across the seabed. This is translated into a distance and
intensity (multiple times/second) using the speed of sound through the watercolumn, and a swath of data is collected across the seafloor.
Traditionally hydrographers have used their knowledge to set sonar parameters to measure the shallowest depth to create charts enabling safe navigation. I am interested in connecting this knowledge with other marine science applications - such as habitat mapping - to ensure measurement uncertainties are considered by those who use depth and intensity data in their research. From this I aim to develop measurement protocols for coastal habitat mapping that will result in high-quality, repeatable scientific outcomes.
As a visual artist I am perhaps overly reliant on my sense of sight to navigate and make sense of my environment. But relying only on my own eyes limits what information I can gather – walking around Quarantine Island / Kamau Taurua in the Dunedin Harbour I only see the small portion of the earth’s crust that happens to be above sea level at this place – one small fraction of what is around me. It’s also difficult to get an accurate sense of the overall shape of even such a small piece of land with its folds and rises.
Emily Tidey’s maps give access to other information to extend my area of vision, looking into the water column and ocean floor, and also providing a view down from above the land. The sonar and
ultrasound techniques she uses also remind me that sight is not the only sense. Her work uses sound waves to map the ocean floor, and to learn what is in the water column; these sound waves are then converted into visual images.
In my response to Emily’s work I have attempted to incorporate information from her mapping into my paper works, showing the links and continuity between ocean and land. I have also brought in a three dimensional, tactile quality to them that is lacking in maps that are printed or on a screen. I have also been exploring the Island using my sense of sound, producing drawings based on sounds and also recording the sounds of the ocean as it intersects with the land.
In Aotearoa New Zealand we are very connected to our oceans and coast. Yet it is estimated that we have mapped only 13% of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in detail. With an ocean territory of 5.7 million square kilometres (LINZ, 2017) it is clear there is much work to be done to develop our understanding of the marine environment.
It is equally apparent that humankind is influencing the natural marine environment and that long term monitoring is needed to determine how our activities directly and indirectly affect marine systems and the people who rely upon them. Hydrographic surveyors have skills and equipment that enrich the traditional scientific work undertaken in the marine environment – biology, oceanography and geology – by revealing the spatial context in which biological and physical processes are active.
While surveying, hydrographers work to determine the quality of the measurements they have made. Not simply how accurate the equipment used is, but how all the factors leading to a depth sounding are combined, including: the equipment making the measurement; the spatial and temporal variation of the water which is being measured through; the geology and habitat of the seabed; the vertical motion of the tide and short term heave; the full range of motion of the vessel; and the relationship of the positioning equipment with the sounder. By quantifying uncertainties, scales and properties of measurements we can then support robust and repeatable data collection which means other users of this data are also generating high-quality, repeatable scientific outcomes. This in turn supports coastal communities and policy makers by enabling science-informed decision making.
Who knows what’s down there?
Hydrographic surveyors are basically undersea explorers. How cool is that?! They go out on boats, scan the ocean floor using sonar arrays, and map the last undiscovered places on the globe. Using techniques like depth sounding to map bathymetry, hydrographic surveyors like Emily Tidey peel back the ocean to reveal one of the most mysterious landscapes on earth.
Features found on the ocean floor can give clues, not only to what is down there, but also to what has been there in the past. Depth variation in an inlet can tell us about the movements of glaciers that no longer exist. Returning to a site over time can help to study the migration of sandwaves in response to ocean currents. Speckling and backscatter in a sonar scan can tell scientists about the materials which form the seabed, and dredge mark scarring tells us about the impact we have on the existing landscape. In Emily’s case, studies of the Auckland Islands can also lead to further research by other marine scientists, like biologists and geologists, and shape our plans for the future of New Zealand’s coastal environment.
From my collaboration with Emily I decided to explore the shapes and textures revealed both on the surface of the ocean, and underneath it. I’ve experimented with reticulated silver to try to recreate features found naturally on the ocean floor. Reticulated silver forms crinkles and waves when a copper and silver alloy is treated and heated correctly. This process involves a significant lack of control for the artist which can yield curious results. These jewellery pieces are like sections cut out of a sonar scan, a tiny depth chart of a piece of ocean that we haven’t found yet. After all, who really knows what’s down there?
Who knows what’s down there? Sterling silver, copper, patina.
Sex change occurs as a usual part of the life cycle for many ray-finned fish, often following specific social cues. Changing sex is known to enhance the lifetime reproductive success of these fish and the modifications involved (behavioral, gonadal, morphological) are well studied. However, the exact mechanism behind the transduction of the environmental signals into the molecular cascade that underlies this singular transformation remains largely unknown. Social control of sex change has been demonstrated in several families of fish, such as wrasses, parrotfishes and damselfishes, in which this socially induced alteration can be observed behaviourally within minutes to hours. Nevertheless, although it is accepted that sex change begins in the brain, its correlation with the initial variations in plasma concentrations of steroids at the gonadal level is still unclear.
Cortisol is the main glucocorticoid in fish and the hormone most directly associated with stress. Recent research suggests that this hormone may act as a key factor linking social environmental stimuli and the onset of sex change by initiating a shift in steroidogenesis from estrogens to androgens. A more profound understanding of the process of sex change in hermaphroditic species of fish, one of the most prominent examples of phenotypic plasticity in nature, will enable us to further understand processes affecting sex determination and differentiation pathways in other vertebrates, such as humans. On top of that, control over sex offers the industry of aquaculture a wide range of advantages: prevention of precocious maturation, the opportunity to produce monosex populations, a greater stability of mating systems, etc.
In this project, I aim to elucidate the role of cortisol in mediating sex change in a protogynous (femaleto-male) hermaphrodite, the endemic New Zealand spotty wrasse (Notolabrus celidotus).
Alex’s research focuses on the potential role of stress in the process of sex change in the New Zealand spotty wrasse, through histological analysis of gonads (testes and ovaries) from groups of fish manipulated in captivity, and the correlation of the observed changes with the expression of particular genes. Male and female spotties are easily distinguished by colour and size. The females have an inky spot mid-flank from which the species takes their name. Males have light “electric-blue” wavy patterns on their cheeks. This work focuses its attention on the genetic assay and imagines the gene encoding positions for sex maintenance in the aromatase feedback loop.
Using a multiple ikat dye process to tie in the gene positions, yarns were produced reminiscent of gene assays as seen in gel electrophoresis. The colour palette was drawn from diveNZ photos of reef environments where NZ Spotty fish are endemic.
Each (vertical) warp tells the story of the genetic potential for individual fish to be both female and male at birth with the gene positions for sex clearly marked. Reading from the left the first warps are “female” with typically male-like expression genes turned “OFF.” The “male” warp has the same information but is wider (to represent its position in the social hierarchy of the group) and is reversed because it has flicked “ON” its maleness genes and undergone its complete functional gonad restructuring and change from female to male in external appearance. To signify the transformation to male is complete, the “male” warp has a strand of EL wire* running its length in “electric blue”. To the right end of the piece are the “transitional” or “indeterminate” sex warps. These contain the same basic genetic information but the gene positions are less well ordered and they are in flux, as they are in nature with the initial phase males.
(*EL wire: Electro-luminescent wire)
Almost 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) accumulates in the atmosphere each year, mostly from activities that burn fossil fuels like driving or using coal to generate electricity1. More than a quarter of these annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions dissolves into the oceans and makes the water more acidic through a process we call ocean acidification. Because life in the oceans has evolved over billions of years into complex, overlapping webs of interactions, even the slightest environmental change can affect organisms and processes in ways that are difficult to see and understand.
One aim of my PhD research at the University of Otago is to better understand how ocean acidification may affect interactions between phytoplankton (single-celled, photosynthetic organisms) and a type of extremely abundant zooplankton (small drifting animals) called copepods. Phytoplankton capture the sun’s energy and transform it into a type of energy all life-forms can use. Copepods eat phytoplankton, and then usually get eaten by fish or birds, making the phytoplankton’s unique energy available to animals higher up the food chain. Ocean acidification could potentially affect this pathway in many ways, such as by altering the energy contained in phytoplankton making them more or less nutritious for their predators, or by causing a physiological imbalance inside copepods’ bodies. Any changes like these that originate at the bottom of the food web would dramatically escalate the global impact of ocean acidification.
The scientist I am working with wanted to incorporate some communication of ocean acidification through the art work. The copepods would be the visual focus of the work, while phytoplankton would be represented as a small particle cloud surrounding the copepods. The projection would be interactive for the audience, with the interaction somehow being the communicative piece about ocean acidification.
Ideally, a watercolour visual style for either the entire projection or maybe just for the visual style of the copepods. Using various software tools such as Unreal engine, Kinnect and Processing, will help achieve a watery look. The interactive part of the projection would ideally symbolize a positive message about how human behaviour can
help mediate or slow down the harmful effects of OA (instead of focusing on the negative emotion tied to how humans caused the problem in the first place). Video projection either on the floor or wall that shows copepods moving/swimming and interacting with phytoplankton. During the “game state” the state of the copepods and the water changes, demonstrating the effects of ocean acidification, which will require the player or players to interact and reverse the ocean acidification process. Gamification for environmental change is one way to involve audiences in being actors for pro-environmental behaviour. The concept “proenvironmental behaviour” is defined as behaviour that improves the quality of the environment and reduces the environmental influence of human beings (Stern, 2000; Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002).
The watercolor work is a response to the original Artist-Scientist collaboration that produced the virtual animation artwork. As the scientist of the pair, I quickly learned how challenging yet rewarding it was to explain my research in ways that maintained scientific accuracy yet revealed areas where there was room for artistic expression. Our productive and encouraging conversations inspired me to think of other ways in which I could experiment with communicating science through art. The final piece is a result of combining art and science in manners of both concept and physical execution. The concept of the piece was inspired by scientific illustration as it naturally blurs the lines between art and science; a work of scientific illustration can be appreciated for both its accurate, practical use in the field as well as its pleasing aesthetic. I chose a copepod as the subject not only to represent one of the key organisms in my research, but also to bring awareness to and appreciation of the often-ignored, humble beauty of microscopic life. For the execution of the piece, I was curious about the physical combination of science and art. I manipulated water color paints with various solutions relevant to my scientific research: filtered seawater, carbonated water, sea salt, and an acid (vinegar). In addition to expressing the ocean acidification research theme within the painting, the chemical presence of these non-traditional elements is likely to compromise the quality of the paper and artwork over time. This effect, while undesirable from an artworkpreservation standpoint, further communicates the detrimental effects ocean acidification will have on marine life in the coming years.