Anderson’s talk was entitled “Radiolaria: Opal Artisans of the Sea and Climate Change.” It included images of real radiolaria–every bit as spectacular as the artists’ conceptions–and an explanation of their potential significance in climate research. Anderson, who does his research at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, pointed out that cold-loving plankton have formed the base of the arctic marine food chain for countless generations. “If ocean surface water increasingly warms due to global climate change, some species may die off,” he said. The consequences could be unpredictable. “There is early evidence that radiolaria can serve as indicators of climate change,” he said.
Michele Banks, another of the artists, said, “Scientists are hoping people are paying attention to their research. We’re not saying, ‘Here, we’re illustrating these findings,’ [but this is another way] to draw attention to what scientists are out there doing.” Jessica Beel, the third member of the trio, said that a few years ago, she was looking at biological imagery, and realized that many of the abstract forms she was creating already existed in nature. “Once you make the connection, you find them everywhere,” she said
“We are hoping we can encourage scientists to see this from our perspective, which is a more conceptual, emotional kind of perspective, than just from the data,” said Weiss.
Anderson liked the radiolaria-type forms. “They were not literal radiolaria, with all the details you’d see in a real organism. It was abstracted, but I could tell which ones they were,” he said. “They were quite nice, very elegant. The artists have done some very clever things.”
The exhibit will be up until May 31 at AAAS headquarters at 1200 New York Ave. NW, Washington.