San Diego/ Parks & Nature
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Published on February 09, 2024
"Hold Fast" at Birch Aquarium in San Diego Merges Art and Science to Address Climate Impact on Kelp ForestsSource: Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The Birch Aquarium at UC San Diego is currently showcasing an exhibit called "Hold Fast", which melds the talents of both artists and scientists to tackle the subject of climate change and its impact on the local kelp forests. The installation, which opened on February 8, features works such as cyanotype-printed kelp by Oriana Poindexter and gyotaku print art by Dwight Hwang, according to a statement obtained by the Birch Aquarium.

"Warming waters and giant kelp don’t mix. We have to be realistic about the outsized impact that climate change has on our local Giant Kelp forests," Megan Dickerson, Director of Exhibits at Birch Aquarium and co-curator of the installation said, emphasizing the need for collective community action. The exhibit includes a dive into the world of kelp propagation with Scripps Oceanography PhD student Mohammad Sedarat, and showcases artwork by Itamar Lilienthal and Adi Khen based on researcher Jennifer Smith’s seaweed pressings.

In a direct nod to local marine life, Hwang's gyotaku prints bring guests up close with species from La Jolla's shores. Scripps Oceanography's marine scientist Poindexter documents changes in the kelp forests through her photo-based work, creating a tactile, dry-land kelp forest for visitors to explore. Sedarat contributes with real-time mapping and research on the forests' resilience in the face of climate stressors.

Complementing the aquarium's installation is another exhibit titled "Ebb and Flow: Giant Kelp Forests through Art, Science and the Archives," hosted by UC San Diego Library at the Geisel Library, which runs until April 21. It combines archival material with contemporary art and, covers over a century of kelp forest observation. Poindexter, who also co-curated "Hold Fast," shared her intimate engagement with the subject matter, "My method to engage with the giant kelp forests is to free dive in, around, through them — and to collect specimens from which to artistically document both the environment and the experience," she told Birch Aquarium.

Birch Aquarium is adding an interactive twist with monthly workshops on fish and sun printing. The "Hold Fast" exhibit, included in the general aquarium admission price, is open until Labor Day 2024. Adult tickets are priced at $24.95, and children’s tickets at $19.95. The aquarium operates daily with extended hours approaching from March 1 through to Labor Day. Visitors must make advance reservations, with details and schedules available on the aquarium's website.