Algae at Olderbrother
Olderbrother’s coastal-inspired collection for Spring-Summer 2021, wants to immerse us in the world of algae. This installation highlights the importance of these photosynthetic organisms on the air we breathe and their role in contributing to marine ecosystems biodiversity. From remediation, nutrition, plastic alternative, to fuel, algae pose radical solutions for sustainability.
Inspired by our season process using algae extracts, we welcome you to come and experience our current installation, a driftwood fort portal to interact with these organisms.
Featuring Bio-artist Maru Garcia, and installation artist Emma Akmakdjian. Photo credits to Pat Martin.
Coiled Bull kelp (Nereocystis leutkeana) sculptures are on display inside the driftwood fort at Olderbrother. Woven by artist Emma Akmakdjian, the mixture of dehydrated and rehydrated cords are intertwined to assimilate a spiral of microscopic algae or a half helix of DNA. Emma has woven her web following the flow of clockwise air pressure systems, the ocean, and the environment while contemplating how it relates to the movement of the body when weaving. The bright yellow and green hue threads are dyed with an elder wood that symbolizes the coming together of terrestrial and aquatic forests.
A flat window-bioreactor containing spirulina (blue-green algae) designed by bioartist Maru Garcia is part of the installation. This wants to bring the public to explore the possibilities that this microorganism can provide as a food source in a GIY (grow it yourself) manner in our homes. Spirulina was made popular by NASA as a dietary supplement for astronauts on space missions because of its nutritional value. As we see algae growing, and bubbles appearing, we are invited to enter a meditative space, where we can reflect on our relationship with the marine ecosystems.
Between the tank of microscopic algae to the macroalgae sculptures, viewers are submerged in a world of algal scales that demonstrate the resilience, flexibility, nutrition, and pigments of algae in all scales.
More about Algae
Algae is a term for a large and diverse group of photosynthetic organisms that range from unicellular microscopic algae to big seaweeds, such as the giant kelp, a large brown alga that may grow up to 160 ft in length. It’s estimated that there are anywhere from 30,000 to 1 million species of algae. (1)
Because of the wide range of types of algae, they have increasing different industrial and traditional applications in human society. Traditional seaweed farming practices have existed for thousands of years and have strong traditions in East Asia food cultures. More modern algaculture applications extend the food traditions, to cosmetics (2), cattle feed, bioremediation or pollution control, transforming sunlight into
algae fuels or other chemicals used in industrial processes, and in medical applications (3).
A recent study found that algae could play an important role in carbon sequestration in order to mitigate climate change while providing valuable value-add products for global economies. (4)
Kelp forests enhance local biodiversity, and represent some of the most productive and diverse ecosystems on Earth and underpin critical ecosystem goods and services upon which human societies depend. It is an abundant ecosystem with a trophic balance of a variety of species not limited to: blue whales, dolphins, horn sharks, leopard sharks, white sharks, seals, sea lions, crustaceans, invertebres, (spiny lobster).
Off the coast of CA there are 87 administered Kelp Forests that have been used for or are currently in use for harvesting. Kelp creates a unique Alginic Acid that is used as an ‘emulsifier’ also known as the texture in ice cream, shampoo, hand sanitizer, medium for computer printers, agent for industrial clothing dyes, and much more.
Over the past decade, the number of reports of ocean warming impacts on kelp forests has risen sharply. While kelp responses to climate change vary greatly between ocean basins, regions, and species, there is compelling evidence to show that ocean warming poses an unequivocal threat to the persistence and integrity of kelp forest ecosystems in coming decades. (5)
Other human impacts that affect marine ecosystems have to do with algal blooms. Blooms of these organisms are attributed to two primary factors: natural processes and anthropogenic loadings leading to eutrophication.(6) Humans have contributed by adding massive and increasing quantities of industrial, agricultural, and sewage effluents to coastal waters. In many urbanized coastal regions, these inputs have altered the size and composition of the nutrient pool which has, in turn, created a more favorable nutrient environment for HAB (Harmful Algae Blooms) species. (7)