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7/2017

Nature's Last Heritage
– Coral Reefs

Exploring the functions of coral reef ecosystems, human influences and their future in the Anthropocene
in a travelling multi-media exhibition

Ecosystems are suffering from human actions worldwide. And yet, how climate change and human impacts such as exploitation and pollution affect ecosystems are not commonly known despite their importance.

By telling the story of the relationship between coral reefs and humans in an engaging exhibition setup, a broad audience gains an understanding of the development and the current situation at hand. It is about reflecting human actions in the past and present, and encouraging visitors to engage with the future standing of humans towards coral reefs. The thematic framework comprises 3 chapters and includes 12 stations with a total of 30 exhibits for which concepts have been created.

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A focal specific structure is applied as the structure for the thematic framework; communication objectives as well as an experience matrix have been developed in order to create an exhibition which appeals to various kinds of learning types.

Environmental Influences on Coral Growth

In order to convey how environmental factors such as sunlight (intensity), building material (saturation state of aragonite) and water temperature (sea surface temperature) influence the growth rate of corals, a concept for an interactive installation has been developed, comprising a control interface and nine responsive glowing columns which represent nine coral species with different tolerances.

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A finished visual design has been developed for this project, not just for digital but also analog interfaces (exhibition walls). In this case, the left side gives a brief yet comprehensive explanation of the impact of environmental factors on coral growth. The header displays the chapter and topic (above exhibit heading) while keywords are highlighted.

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Three sliders allow for the modification of three environmental factors: water temperature, sunlight, and building material. Inside the radial slider component, a visualisation conveys the growth rate level of represented columns in front of the visitor (responsive installation).

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Nine hexagonal columns are placed in front of the control table, representing nine coral species with different environmental tolerances.

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The height of the column corresponds with the ideal coral growth within 30 years. The columns are illuminated from the inside; the height of illumination is affected by the chosen environmental parameters, thus allowing for a juxtaposition between ideal and actual growth rates given environmental conditions. 

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A prototype of a coral column has been 3D printed, representing the species Gerardia which only grows to 18cm within 30 years under ideal conditions.

The Chemistry of Ocean Acidification and Calcification

Coral reefs are threatened by ocean warming and ocean acidification simultaneously. As the latter is less known, an animated interactive information visualisation has been conceptualised and a prototyped has been created. By displaying chemical reactions visually, the carbon cycle and processes of calcification and ocean acidification are made intellectually and motivationally more accessible. 

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A step-by-step approach – communicated through pulsing of UI elements in a subtle way – support a better understanding of the sequence of chemical reactions and prevent visitors from an information overload. 

Thanks to:

Prof Eva Vitting (project supervisor)

Prof Oliver Wrede (project supervisor)

Tanya Dodgen (academic correspondence from The Global Change Institute, University of Queensland)

Acknowledgement:

Student award from FH Aachen, 2017

Category: Society-Future-Responsibility