By Jenny Rock, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University
Climate change and polar oceans:
With global warming, the world's ecosystems have been described as migrating toward the poles, such that when the ice disappears entirely the ecosystems at the poles will be "pushed right off the planet". For the polar environment, these are of course dominantly marine ecosystems, and although many organisms are/or will soon feel the effects, the polar bears have become iconic for polar organisms in peril. There is grim irony here: Until very recently the ice bear was unconditionally feared by western man. As the early explorer's discovered, even when dead the beasts could kill you (their liver had the final say on numerous occasions). Polar bears were the quintessential symbols of an enormous, impossibly white, deadly landscape. A land with which explorers struggled and often lost but which continuously captivated with a wild and seemingly unconquerable severity of beauty. Nanook was the undisputed king of the north. Now everything about polar bear biology is sensitive to change, in delicate balance with a fragile ecosystem. In melting away our wildest places we also dissolve the boldest icons of human bravery, strength and enduring passion for exploration. To explore is to question, and what are humans without a questioning, questing mind? We destroy part of ourselves with the ice.
"Off the ends"
"The final dive"
Connectivity in polar oceans:
In the Antarctic, larval fish dispersing between distant island groups in the powerful Circumpolar Current, require large energy provisions. The huge yolk stores seen in the eggs of these fish grant some freedom to disperse in this environment, but here, as in all oceans of the world, there is more to the sea than meets our eye. Their complexities have been largely opaque to our view, and our technologies long ago converted them from barrier to conduit/connection. Thus, we have viewed oceans as vastly connected, mixed, diffuse, and without physical barriers. (Also, unfortunately, as entities so fathomlessly huge as to be inexhaustible and unalterable.) Yet modern research on marine connectivity shows it is extremely variable on both temporal and geographic scales. Barriers can crop up everywhere; they might seem subtle to landlubbers, but the effect of small shifts in currents/temperature/salinity etc can have enormous physical and biological effect. From our biased mammalian perspective we forget that for cold-blooded ectotherms, a subtle shift in thermocline can be as definitive a barrier as a mountain range. Shown here are two species of Antarctic fish, each differing enormously in their developmental biology. Both have eggs with yolks big enough to allow survival for long distance dispersal, but N. rossii has further life history characteristics granting it enormous potential for connectivity between populations in the Southern Ocean. Sadly, in many regions it is now struggling the hardest to recover from past fisheries exploitation. All things are not the same under the sea.
"Icefish Champsocephalus gunnari"
"Fish egg world"
These are all collagraph intaglio prints, in which I have incorporated a variety of techniques/media including dry point, cut paper, carborundum, acrylic gel, silk, chine-collé, etc.
Union of science and art
Science and art share so many commonalities the distinction can blur to the point of abstraction. Both processes involve at their core, intuition and creative integration in order to conceptualise a theory. And the theories or hypotheses generated share the same motivating force: that of exploring relationships between things. Sometimes the goal is to characterise similarities, sometime to contrast, often it is to identify a cause and effect relationship. In both science and art the process can be equally disparate: from purely descriptive to highly experimental. The key difference lies after the creative conceptualisation stage: science says these things we think are true to life as we know it (and this is how we can deductively prove it). And for art, proving anything further is not required. While science is tied up in the proofs, it is not surprising then that art excels in communicating concepts. Perhaps there is more to it as well — something in our hard-wiring for "seeing comes before words" (J. Berger). Non-verbal associations may well communicate complex connections and translate ideas more effectively. You be the judge.