February 14, 2017

Story: Art, Politics, and the Ocean: MARINE hosts two successful interdisciplinary events

Last fall, our MARINE (Monterey Area Research Institutions’ Network for Education) program hosted two innovative events that brought students and experts together to discuss pressing ocean issues. The first event focused on the importance of linking art and science, while the second stressed the need to link national security with ocean protection.

Converging Currents: Where Art and Science Meet

On October 8th, 2016, MARINE hosted its first ever art and science event, “Converging Currents: Where Art and Science Meet” at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. The event kicked-off with presentations by a variety of artists who are all inspired in some way by science, whether it’s through remedial environmental art installed in nature, sculptures based off of data, or science illustration.

Enid Ryce, Chair of the Cinematic Arts & Technology Department at Cal State University Monterey Bay, opened the evening by presenting her projects that focus on participatory environmental art—engaging audiences in artwork to communicate science. Daniel McCormick and Mary O'Brian, sculptors who apply their art to habitat restoration, also emphasized the importance of engaging local communities in their projects to instill a sense of ownership in restoration efforts.

Science illustrator Andrea Dingledein described to the audience how she grew up loving both art and science, and how she learned to incorporate her artistic talent into her science classes. “Art can sell your research,” Dingledein said, explaining that she hopes to help integrate art back into science courses at the university level.

Adrien Segal, artist and data sculptor, discussed her passion for turning scientific data into interpretative, three dimensional art pieces. "I'm very interested in asking WHY,” she emphasized. “I like putting data into the greater context of its meaning in life." Segal has created captivating sculptures out of wood, metal, and even ice based on environmental data from a variety of sources, depicting phenomena such as fires, tidal action, and climate change.

All four presenters later came together for a panel discussion on the integration of art and science, and to answer questions from the audience. The evening concluded with a pop-up art gallery reception, with pieces contributed by members of the MARINE community. Displays ranged from drawings and paintings to photography, quilts, and multimedia.

Secure Oceans: Recommendations for the World’s Largest Crime Scene

On November 1st, 2016, MARINE and the Middlebury Institute for International Studies (MIIS) co-hosted a seminar and panel discussion entitled “Secure Oceans: Recommendations for the World’s Largest Crime Scene”. The evening began with a presentation from Johan Bergenäs who spoke about illegal overfishing and similar activities that can pose threats to national security. Bergenäs described his job as the study of ‘natural security’, i.e. the study of how environmental challenges impact national and global security.

“Illegal fishing is a kind of natural resource theft and therefore a national security issue,” Bergenäs stated, citing that Secretary John Kerry and other political leaders argue this point as well. He argued that ocean protection needs to be made relevant to national security personnel by highlighting these kinds of “environmental warfare” that can lead to dangerous resource conflict. “We have the capacity right now to link natural resources to national security,” Bergenäs stressed. “We just need the political will.”

Afterwards, a panel of experts gathered to continue the discussion on the role of government and the protection of our ocean’s natural resources. Two retired Navy Captains and the head of a large environmental NGO shared opinions and advice on how we can improve the link between U.S. national security agencies, environmental agencies, and civilians to increase ocean protection. All the panelists agreed that illegal and undocumented fishing is both an environmental and human security threat that deserves more attention.

The successful evening with a full house ended with a reception where attendees were given the opportunity to network and mingle. The event attracted a diverse group of university students, academic staff, and local citizens with an interest in ocean conservation and security.