PLASTIKOPLANKTON, Ocean Invaders

Plankton; Vital to life

In the vast, mysterious world beneath the sea there are microscopic organisms so small that they look like specks of dust. Drifting along on the ocean currents, these organisms are known as plankton, from a Greek word meaning ocean drifters. Plankton have existed for millions of years, scientists have traced their origins back to the beginnings of life. Despite their insignificant appearance, these minute organisms play a vital role in sustaining life on Earth, both in the oceans and on land. Occupying the lowest level of the marine food chain, they are crucial in supporting all sea life further up the chain. Through the process of photosynthesis, they are also one of planets main sources of oxygen; incredibly, they generate more oxygen than the trees and plants that grow on land.

 

Threat to life

In an interesting twist, one of the by-products of plankton is now endangering those same marine species that plankton have sustained for millennia. Crude oil, produced by the compression of prehistoric plankton, is a key component in the manufacture of plastic. And plastic is now a serious threat to marine life.  Named after the Greek word plastiko, meaning a material that can be moulded, plastic finds its way into the oceans in the form of vast quantities of waste. Here, it breaks up into particles but does not disappear. Marine species mistake these particles for their normal food source – plankton – and the imposter plankton then work their way up the food chain with fatal effects.

 

About the project

In this series, these plastic ocean invaders are playfully formed to imitate exact plankton species. The replicas are presented as if they are a new species, reflected in the names of the photographs in which the type of plastic used and the plankton’s name are morphed into one word. To learn about the making of this project, please visit the bottom of the page.

The world of plankton is complex and fascinating, this project has been motivated by a curiosity about the rich and diverse species with whom we share our planet, and by a desire to protect them.

 

 

                                                                  OCEANIA ARMATHYLENE

 

MIDUSA A5 1

                                                                                               MIDUSA

 

Benthamides A5

                                                                     LUITHALENE SARSIO

 

POLYAGIA

 

                                                                                  SIPHONOLENE

 

                                                                                       URCHYLONS

 

red jelly bottle a5                                                                                 BENTHAMIDES

 

POLYLARIANS a5 3

                                                                                        POLYLARIANS

 

SPIRALYONS A5

                                                                                           SPIRALYONS

 

                   Polypiatoms A5

                                                                                       POLYIATOMS

 

DIATOPYLENE A5

                                                                                       DIATOPYLENE

 

                                                                                   POLYPLANKTON

 

 

 

The making of

The project began with researching plankton; meeting marine scientists at Glasgow University, visits to the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre to view old plankton specimens, and then a visit to the Scottish Association for Marine Science where living plankton specimens are kept and studies are made on the effects of plastic in nearby waters. Water colour and mixed media visual interpretations were made to consider the colourful forms of plankton. To collect the materials, rubbish was gathered from beach cleans around the Firth of Clyde, where plastic waste often gets channelled and trapped. Replicating plankton required extensive experimentation, including creating bioplastics, making plastic slime, producing moulds for casting resin and sculpting silicone, melting plastics and setting plastics in jelly. The objects were then photographed in a lighted fish tank filled with water, with photographic challenges of  weight, depth and movement.

 

TANK SET-UP

making of

NURDLES (from FIDRA) and plastic debris collected from beach cleans around the Firth of Clyde

 

LIVING PLANKTON SPECIMENS (ALGAE), THE SCOTTISH ASSOCIATION FOR MARINE SCIENTISTS

 

HISTORIC PLANKTON SPECIMENS, THE GLASGOW MUSEUM RESOURCE CENTRE

Above 3 images © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

 

MIXED MEDIA ON CARD

Oceania Armata

Polycystine Radiolarians

 A Mixture of Protists

 

WATER-COLOURS

 Radiolarians

 

Mysids

Young Nudibranch

Dragonet Larva

Diatoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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