Ocean Science + Art

This weekend I visited one of my favorite places in Boston: the Museum of Science. I was excited to discover a new ocean-related exhibit, called Ocean Stories: a synergy of art and science. The basic premise is that eight oceanographers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and MIT were paired with professional artists from Boston and Cape Cod.  Each scientist/artist team collaborated to communicate the scientist’s research through visual art. The Ocean Stories exhibit includes the eight pieces of artwork, along with descriptions of each scientist’s research and the collaborative process used by each team.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces:

350dotEGG by Karen Ristuben in collaboration with Sophie Chu


Sophie Chu studies the effects of ocean acidification on pteropods.  Karen Ristuben created this sculpture by soaking 350 eggshells in vinegar to demonstrate the effect of ocean acidification on shelled organisms and the entire ocean.

To Hear an Ocean in a Whisper by Nathalie Miebach in collaboration with Jon Fincke

krill park

Jon Fincke uses acoustic scattering techniques to study zooplankton.  In Nathalie Miebach’s sculpture, the amusement park represents the biological, seasonal, and geophysical cycles associated with krill on Georges Bank. For example, the Ferris wheel shows the diurnal cycle of the krill and the roller coaster is the Labrador Current.

Within, the ways of water by Anastasia Azure in collaboration with Larry Pratt


Larry Pratt studies fluid paths in eddies.  Anastasia Azure’s sculpture is made of dyed fishing line woven on a loom and represents the complex flow patterns in a cross section through an eddy.


As a scientist, I find it interesting to think about the communication of science through visual art.  When I collect or analyze data I never stop to consider its beauty or visual interest, but seeing examples of science-based artwork opened my eyes to the possibility. As a sign in the exhibit noted about the collaborative effort between scientists and artists, “This dialogue motivated the scientists to consider their research through an aesthetic lens, and the artists to develop novel visual strategies to communicate the scientific data.” I also like the idea of presenting science in novel formats to engage a broader audience.

The exhibit is on display until May (the artwork is much more impressive in person!).  And, if the combination of oceans, science and art isn’t enough of a reason to visit the Museum of Science, all IMAX films in the Mugar Omni Theater are free every Friday in March. There is even one about coral reefs!


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