Art and science are teaming up to demystify ocean acidification — a serious threat to marine life and a complex puzzle for both research and public outreach — in the third exhibit of “The Art of Marine Science” created through a partnership by Mote Marine Laboratory and Ringling College of Art and Design.
The exhibit will run from November 28-December 4 in The Aquarium at Mote and will feature educational artworks created by Ringling students during a Mote-led course.
Ocean acidification, sometimes nicknamed the “osteoporosis of the sea,” occurs when seawater becomes more acidic than before — a chemistry change in which its pH gets lower — because the water absorbs carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from manmade sources such as fossil fuels. More acidic water can dissolve or weaken the skeletons of coral reefs, the shells of many shellfish and other calcium-rich substances vital to marine life. Research shows that ocean water is more acidic now than in pre-industrial times. If carbon dioxide emissions continue along their current trends, the oceans could become more acidic than they have been in millions of years.
“Ocean acidification is a worldwide threat to marine ecosystems and a huge focus for the marine research community, but it can be difficult raise public awareness about this problem because its works in subtle ways; the oceans are not getting so acidic that they’ll irritate your skin, but relatively small changes in ocean chemistry can severely threaten corals and potentially many kinds of marine life,” said Dr. Emily Hall, manager of Mote’s Ocean Acidification Program. “We hope to bring this complex issue to light for the public by working with the highly creative students at Ringling.”
This will be the third exhibit of The Art of Marine Science created by Ringling students guided by Mote scientists who teach the “Ecology of Water” course at Ringling. Successful earlier exhibits focused on Florida Red Tide — another topic both important and challenging for public outreach. Mote is dedicated to informing the public about the oceans and our own world-class marine research through informal science education.
The ocean acidification exhibit will feature 10 projects created by 27 students working in small groups. Artworks will range from sculptures, films and children’s books to video games, ad campaigns and other outreach materials.
Projects will be reviewed by a panel of judges from the community and the winning project will be announced during an invitation-only awards reception on November 28. Projects will be displayed through Dec. 4 in The Aquarium at Mote and the public will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite. The winning projects in Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice will be displayed for a year or longer at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center on Key West, where Mote hosts a special exhibit called “The Living Reef.”
Mote leads cutting-edge research on ocean acidification and coral reefs in the Florida Keys at its Tropical Research Laboratory on Summerland Key. The Ocean Acidification Program studies how ecologically important species like corals respond to projected levels of ocean acidification. The Program is currently testing methods for using a unique seawater system at the Tropical Research Laboratory to study how corals and other reef species will react to changes in pH level (acidity).
This research and the new Art of Marine Science exhibit are supported by the Protect Our Reefs specialty license plate, which is administered by Mote. Sales of this Florida plate support coral reef research, education, conservation and restoration focused on Florida’s reef system. Learn more and purchase your plate at www.mote.org/4reef.
Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization based in Sarasota, Fla., with field stations in eastern Sarasota County, Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Keys. Donations to Mote are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.
Mote is dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, healthy habitats and natural resources. Research programs include studies of human cancer using marine models, the effects of man-made and natural toxins on humans and on the environment, the health of wild fisheries, developing sustainable and successful fish restocking techniques and food production technologies and the development of ocean technology to help us better understand the health of the environment. Mote research programs also focus on understanding the population dynamics of manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and coral reefs and on conservation and restoration efforts related to these species and ecosystems.
Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is The Aquarium at Mote, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at www.mote.org.
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