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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: News

January 22, 2020

Data and Design in the Fight against Plastic Pollution

Doug Karlson, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

SEA Semester

Above: Aerial view of the "Perpetual Plastic;" Below: Skye Moret during installation in Bali; Skye receiving award from Michael Ulica, President and COO of National Geographic.

Former SEA Scientist and Alumna Skye Moret Wins Nat Geo Award

Skye Moret, C-190, has a passion for using data visualization and engagement to bridge the gap between design and science. Recently, that passion took her to a remote beach in Bali where she created ‘Perpetual Plastic,’ a 46-foot diameter data art installation that's also a flow chart illustrating the transformation and fate of plastic waste.

The project earned Skye and colleagues Liina Klauss and Moritz Stefaner first prize out of 300 original entries in the data visualization category from the National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures Plastic Innovation Challenge. To make the artwork, the team recruited 50 volunteers and collected 4,760 pieces of plastic marine debris during three beach clean-ups along Bali's west coast. According to Skye, the debris collected represents just 0.11% of the plastic debris generated in Indonesia in a single day.

"The situated, participatory data installation approach extends abstract displays of numbers towards a more gripping form of 'data visceralization.' The direct link to beach clean-up activities suggests immediate opportunities for action, turning the sculpture into a catalyst for engagement," explained Skye.

Skye is an Assistant Professor at the Pacific Northwest College of Art and Senior Researcher at the TBA21–Academy. In addition to being an alumna of SEA Semester class C-190, she sailed on the Atlantic Ocean Plastics Expedition, and served as scientist on 20 SEA Semester voyages.

The overall goal of this challenge is to reduce the amount of single-use-plastic that reaches the ocean. Their team installation was dismantled after one day. But this spring, a website and social media campaign targeted at a young Southeast Asian audience will illustrate the project to amplify the message.

Said Skye: "How we disseminate information is critical for actionable engagement, as visual literacy and environmental activism increases daily. Opening up new, inclusive forms of discourse for scientists and artists and creating access to scientific data—as exemplified by our data art installation— helps promote this urgent, global effort."

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