GradImpact: Educating the Public on a Decline in Marine Life through Art Installations

    Invertebrates comprise roughly 97 percent of life on Earth and “ensure habitat quality, serve as the foundation for most food chains, and sustain both marine and terrestrial ecosystems.” Their rapid decline poses significant risk to this planet’s future. Jacquelyn Dale (JD) Whitman, an MFA candidate in art at the University of Iowa, combines art with marine ecology to educate the public on a decline in marine biodiversity due to human threats like habitat destruction, overfishing, invasive species, pollution, and climate change.


    Whitman’s thesis project presents Ireland’s Blaschka Invertebrate Models—glass replicas of marine invertebrate species from our 19th-century oceans—through an interactive, sculptural installation made from recycled plastic and animated video projections. She intends for her installations to combat ecophobia – “a negative response or automatic desensitization to visual images of environmental disasters” – an issue she’s studied since her time as a student in Ireland. 


    “This installation will positively educate viewers on the global decline in marine biodiversity due to the threat of plastic pollution,” says Whitman, a native of Philadelphia, Pa. “Almost every single food chain and ecosystem depends on invertebrates. If we eliminate the invertebrates, it is doubtful that we as a species will survive. If we remove just one of the human threats—if we work to resolve the plastic pollution crisis—that could help to reverse this potentially catastrophic, global decline.” To learn more about JD’s work, visit the University of Iowa website.


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    Photo Credit: JD Whitman is pictured at the National Museum Ireland-Natural History.



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