Artist/animator: Rachel Lodge
Science consultant: David L. Peterson
Audio courtesy of Dashael Nadler-Fennell and the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Shown in Surge 2018, Museum of Northwest Art exhibition co-sponsored with Skagit Climate Science Consortium, October 6, 2018-January 6, 2019
From the statement:
Like other forests around the world, the Skagit Basin’s forests are a carbon sink, drawing carbon from the air through photosynthesis and storing it both above and below ground. Forest trees also hold water in the soil, releasing it slowly, and thus are central to the flow of water through the Skagit Basin’s river systems.
Climate change, however, is bringing warmer temperatures and smaller winter snowpack to the Pacific Northwest, increasing the number of drought-stressed trees and insect infestations and the associated risk of fires, even on the wetter western side of the Cascade crest. The effects of upstream fires in the Skagit Basin are both local, causing increased erosion, flood risk, and changing sedimentation rates, and global: the fires release a portion of stored forest carbon back into the atmosphere. Unless or until the burned area fully recovers, this release exacerbates the greenhouse effect and planetary warming.
The actual flow of carbon through living systems—the way forests exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen with the atmosphere in the process of growth, decay, fire, and regeneration— is fascinating, beautiful, and essential to an understanding of the dynamics of climate change, but we mostly don’t see it or think about it because it happens at scales that are both too small and too large for our ordinary human perception.
"Inhale/Exhale" visualizes this flow in the forests of the Skagit Basin at both the microscopic and landscape level, using simple animations of photosynthesis and related biologic processes and transitions in leaves, trees and forests.
While the animations are grounded in basic forest science, these ecosystems are too complex, with too many elements and too much randomness, to be described or predicted fully. That is, beyond a certain point they remain a mystery. In this project we aspired to capture some of that mystery in artistic terms.
Rachel made the images by hand in ink and watercolor on paper, drawing partly from life and partly from imagination. She then animated and edited them in After Effects and Premiere to produce the final videos.
Dashael Nadler-Fennell contributed the audio, which Rachel adapted for this project with his permission. The bird recordings are from the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Olive-sided Flycatcher (Geoffrey A. Keller)
Black-capped Chickadee (Geoffrey A. Keller)
Hermit Thrush (Thomas G. Sander)
Swainson's Thrush (Larry Joseph)