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Images: Cereamics Meets Marine Biology at WHOI

When the ceramics arts class from Falmouth High School visited Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in November 2012, biologist Heidi Sosik showed them delicate and intricate images of a wide variety of life forms that thrive, unseen, in the local ocean. The images were taken by the Imaging FlowCytobot, an automatic underwater microscope deployed offshore at WHOI’s Martha's Vineyard Coastal Observatory.

Falmouth High School ceramics teacher Corine Adams wanted her students to think creatively about marine animals and art. The students gathered in WHOI's Redfield auditorium to hear about unfamiliar marine creatures and see images of them. Student Tyler Ragonese (center) took notes, as WHOI scientists gave short, illustrated introductions to plant and animal plankton, corals, and seafloor-dwelling animals.

At the WHOI Exhibit Center, Falmouth High School ceramics students Christian Lineweaver and Tyler Ricketson take a turn trying to fit in the model of the submersible Alvin's personnel sphere. (The actual sphere carries three people on eight-hour dives to the ocean floor.)

Falmouth High School student Brittney Woodward looks through a microscope at the WHOI Exhibit Center. The class visit to WHOI, supported by the Falmouth Education Foundation, was organized by FHS art teacher Corine Adams and WHOI Exhibit Center manager Kathy Patterson.

From left, Emily Turner, Sarah Elloian, Sarah Monteiro, and Donye Gonsalves work on ceramics projects at Falmouth High School. Teacher Corine Adams assigned three pieces to be inspired by marine biology. “I’m trying to come up with lessons that I can teach them something with, but that also has their interest and motivation, so they want to make something that they're happy with, that they can bring home or put on display.”

Nick Dinello shapes his clay sculpture in the FHS ceramics room. “I’m doing a brain coral,” he said. “It's still coming along, so the colors will make it look more realistic. I’m going to paint the base purple and the lumps a vibrant green.” On a visit to WHOI, the art students heard from Liz Drenkard, a Ph.D. student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program who studies corals. Inset: The finished coral sculpture.

Her right arm in a bright pink cast, Madison Heberl paints her piece the exact same color. “This is my abstract piece, and it’s a puffer fish. It had to be abstract, so I made it a different color, and put eyes all around it. The painting’s really bad, because I had to do it with my left hand!”

After seeing WHOI postdoctoral scientist Amy Maas’s presentation on types of tiny swimming snails called pteropods, Emily Turner decided to use them as a theme. “They are a kind of plankton. Sea angel and sea devil are what they’re called. And these are salt and pepper shakers. They’re the same kind of animal, kind of, but one’s good, and one’s bad and eats the other.” Inset: the finished pieces.

“I made a lobster, and a bowl with waves” said Donye Gonsalves. “It was difficult making the lobster’s and connecting the tail. I make the legs, attach them, and sometimes they break off, so I keep putting them on. It’s my realistic piece, so you have to have all the parts. I have to get the right paint color and paint them with the brush so it looks real.” Lower right: the finished bowl.

Art teacher Corine Adams discusses a technique with student Sarah Montiero. “For the realistic piece, I’m looking at proportion,” Adams said. “If it’s a whale, the tail has to be proportional to the body. And I’m looking at texture—if a starfish, that it has a lot of texture, and also color. They need me some of the time, but if they’re not sure, they ask each other, ‘How did you do that?’ ”

WHOI President and Director Susan Avery (right) attended a reception March 22, 2013, at WHOI for Falmouth High School ceramics arts students. In front of cases displaying student art, Avery (right) talked with Rebekah Raber (holding her polar bear sculpture) and Anna Adams. The ceramics pieces will be on display in WHOI’s Clark Laboratory until the end of April 2013.