zoetrope strip animation of a barnacle

The  Visualizing Microbial Seascapes Monograph Project, a culminating assignment for introductory animation and marine biology students, compiles first hand observations, research, drawings and animations of various microbial species in the marine environment, most of which can be found close to us here in Olympia, Washington, in the waters of southern Puget Sound. As with the Spring Quarter 2016 VMS Monograph Project, the goals of this assignment were for students to integrate their learning about marine micro-organisms with observational and representational skills they are developing in writing, drawing and animation. The project also provided opportunities for students to share their learning with classmates and others in the broader community, and gain skills in collaboration and using digital tools to present creative and scientific work. Students collaborated on different ways to categorize their organisms according to ecological and symbolic relationships that you will find in the menu headings.  We invite you to explore this site and learn about the remarkable diversity of marine microbial life and the ecological interactions among these organisms that our students have examined.


zoetrope strip animation of barnacle larva

Visualizing Microbial Seascapes: An Introduction to Animation and Marine Biology is an Evergreen program in the 2015-16 academic year that examines marine environments and life from the perspectives of science and the visual and media arts, emphasizing animation. Marine life constitutes a majority of the biomass and diversity of life, and marine microorganisms play major, complex roles in global ecological processes. We focus on these relationships and how human activity affects them. 

In the past century, humans have severely impacted Earth’s ecosystems, degrading habitats and over-exploiting natural resources. Some scientists have termed this period of human influence the Anthropocene. In the program we explore ways that science and art can increase understanding of natural phenomena and human impacts on them, contributing effectively to solving environmental problems such as those that have caused the Anthropocene. We study how artists and marine scientists use close observation, analysis, and integrative thinking to communicate important concepts and values. We experiment with ways to represent the movements, behaviors, and functions of microorganisms, as well as the larger structures of marine environments. Artists routinely base their works on scientific findings; students are practicing such research-based creative strategies to respond to and represent marine phenomena in their drawings and animation.

Faculty: Gerardo Chin-Leo, PhD and Ruth Hayes, MFA