BioMachine Design Challenge

Back to Project

Quick Tools

Pollinator Concentrator

Sited on Taos Pueblo Indigenous Land at Rio Fernando Park

Drone video and sound by Isaiah Galante

AnaMacArthur, our first BioSTEAM artist, has designed Pollinator Concentrator, a site-specific, interspecies installation at Rio Fernando Park in Taos New Mexico, created in collaboration with Taos Land Trust.

"Pollinator Concentrator addresses the concern of pollinator decline and designed to radiate awareness of pollinators locally and broadly. Approaching the installation’s site a pole appears above what will be a lush field of wildflower grass as if an antenna drawing one near. Surrounding the antenna is an undulation of landscape leading into its center of interest, a ten foot, buried parabolic dish. The antenna inside the dish functions like a sundial, elaborating on the relationship amongst the shadow of the antenna, the hour of day, and the alignment with specific tiles as a measurement of time. The parabolic surface is lined with tiles of a series of pollinator species mostly from New Mexico and referencing a larger diversity. The tiles are dyed a range of blues incorporating symbolism, as, in the human’s visible range, blue is at the edge of the short wavelengths, and symbolically it calls in meditation, spaciousness, and depth of thought. On specific nights the circumference of the parabolic will glow in ultraviolet light, using this frequency to attract insects and some pollinators. The ultrasonic sounds from bats flying over at night will be registered on a bat monitor and further signal the UV lights to undulate. This encounter potentially increases one’s ability to study and thus respect many minute creatures, and their roles, that otherwise go unnoticed."~ Ana MacArthur


Ana MacArthur

MacArthur’s trans-disciplinary practice functions as a creative catalyst by excavating nature’s processes and connected metaphors through the specific lens’s of life’s relationship to light, environmental intelligence, and appropriate technology. MacArthur’s history in working with light based technologies, has evolved to increasing work immersed in the natural world. For years, her projects have evolved from collaborations with scientists, and are manifest in installations using light based media and site-specific projects. Formerly a key member of the Museum of Holography in NYC, she co-founded and was a 20-year pioneer in a dichromate holography lab from which she produced many individual works. She holds the degrees MFA Transart Institute, BFA combined Mills College and SUNY-Alfred.

  • In Search of the Collaborative Part I&II
    In Search of the Collaborative Blue Fringe
    A Light Touch:On the Future of Mapping
    Archival Fringes Revisited; Water
    Where Light Meets Water; Mumuru on the Equator
  • Tenuous Seed to Riparian Fertility
    A Journey Through Bui-Bui

Taos Land Trust

Taos Land Trust,  a non-profit based in Taos, New Mexico is revitalizing a 20-acre property with 13 acres of historical agricultural land and 7 acres of wetland next to Fred Baca Park. This project will revitalize a section of the Rio Fernando River, bring an acequia back to life, and restore the once-productive agricultural lands of this property. Once finished, the site will provide our community and its visitors with downtown access to the river and green space through a network of trails. The ongoing rehabilitation work is used for educational demonstrations of best practices for conservation of soil, water and habitat.

The Pollinator Concentrator installation relates to the Taos Land Trust mission of land, river and watershed revitalization. Our goal was to beautify and promote the park with this site-specific installation, build curriculum around the artist work to be accessed for free through this online BioSTEAM platform, and share the Taos Land Trust park model as an example for other communities around the world.  Through this collaboration we hope to share the exciting restoration work happening on the land, instill value for protecting biodiversity locally and globally, and increase visitation to the park as a place to feel wonder, respect and inspiration for nature.

skills applied

  • Environmental science
  • Optics and light
  • Quantum biology
  • Biomimicry
  • 3D modeling


"We all have something to offer with our creative lives. I was encouraged artistically when I was young but not given the same inspiration in the sciences. But due to my own observations about light and my desire to understand it’s curious phenomena, I found myself driven to study the ‘physics of light’. Years of ‘playing’ with diverse materials as an artist, and excited about the transformations brought by new technology, instilled the courage to experiment and, like an alchemist, make new discoveries. My upbringing immersed hands-on in the natural world filled my mind with experiences of how many organisms in our biomes have their own intelligence, and unique ways of sensing the world. The mostly local pollinators in the tiles of the parabolic dish are there to strike your curiosity, and open your comfort zone in experiencing them….what valuable work do these unusual creatures perform?…with conservation how can you co-create with them? How can we steward this biodiversity by first noticing who is there? Go to the STEAM Wiki below to dive into some fun explorations related to pollinator preservation, the role of UV light, and sundials."  Ana MacArthur

Installation Features

"The parabolic form is reminiscent of a lens focusing its energy to a focal point, the height of the pole. The installation references a satellite dish imagining the transfer of pollinator DNA to preserve it in faraway places. Thus, it brings pollinators into ‘focus’.

This work elaborates on understanding the visible and near visible electromagnetic spectrum of light and its function with pollinators. Many pollinators locate their nectar/ pollen by ultraviolet light (UV) markings in flowers seen by these species yet hidden from human vision.

Pollinators see part of the spectrum that we don’t, and additionally there are significant understandings regarding safety for human vision looking at specific frequencies of UV. The UV lights in this installation use the frequencies of 395 – 406nm, safe for the human eye to look at, but with the added safety of having a hood over them, allowing the viewer to only look at indirect UV light."

"The most powerful interaction may be the experience of the UV light drawing out the viewer’s curiosity to study the insects/ pollinators. A bat detector has been installed near the installation in collaboration with bat biologist, Mike Balistreri and programmer, David Ham. Mike has been monitoring the bat population at the park and has detected approximately 20 species that live on or visit the land.

The UV lights are connected to an Arduino programmed by David that receives the electronic signals from the bat detector. The result is that the UV lights, lit on certain evenings, will undulate when bats are detected in the area around the installation. This feature will be on display for special summer evening events. For daytime tours the detector is also connected to audification sensors to hear the sounds of bats detected by the installation.

The hope is that it will stimulate a great sense of wonder, tuning the viewer into how frequent bat’s visit, and help to dispel myths about bats. In addition, David has programmed the ability to translate the ultrasound of bats to audible frequencies so that the bat sounds can also be shared with the public and increase an understanding and curiosity of bats."

"Working from a rendering of mathematical coordinates, the parabolic information was transferred into Sketch Up to create drawings from which working construction schematics were produced by Mark Goldman’s class UNM- Taos, Construction Technologies. Then with Enscape, renderings were created to produce mold boxes to cast the parabolic in 4 parts.

The entire dimension with 4 parts created a 10 ft. diameter parabolic with a 12” outside height. It was cast out of an advanced concrete product called GFRC (glass reinforced concrete) at a thickness of 1.5”. The final 4 quarters were placed on a gravel/ paver footer 8” deep. Around the outside of the entire parabolic is an undulating landscaping of crusher fines and gravel, berming the earth around the parabolic, and with a lower level moat surrounding it. The center of the parabolic has a drain with 4” PVC pipe steering any collected water or melted snow off into a pumice wick under the pollinator garden nearby."

"The pole inside the dish appears above a lush field of 4 ft. tall ryegrass as if an antenna is drawing one near. The antenna functions like a sundial, elaborating on the relationship amongst the shadow of the antenna, the hour of day, and the alignment with specific tiles as a measurement of time.

There is attention to the observation of the sun’s path during times of day and seasons, and thus understanding that each species of pollinator is active during differing times of day/ night related to the position of the sun. Visit Henrietta Gomez's video interview to hear her talk about the sundial and traditional ways of experiencing the sun in daily life."

"The tiles are 8” hexagons with entire surface composed of 280 tiles. There is a repeat of 9 differing pollinator species, mostly from New Mexico, with one representative from bats, hummingbirds, butterfly, moth, bee, and wasp families. Only one of the species is confirmed endangered, but they are all representatives ‘for those at risk’. Made from a cement material they are dyed a range of blues with the outer circumference tiles are lighter so that the UV lights show well.

The tile images were chosen for ease of laser etching a model in acrylic, and from which a silicon mold was made, to generate multiple copies. The rhythmic pattern of hexagons was inspired by the geometry of butterfly eyes, and is reminiscent of beehive architecture. Overall the teachings embedded in this work intend to bring a greater awareness to our animal family, that we necessarily share ecosystems with and need for our survival."

"Created in collaboration with Taos Land Trust partners. An arch garden of pollinator plants appears like a portion of a larger concentric circle. This garden creates a boundary protecting the parabolic and landscaping around it. Native plant species attracting pollinators were matched up with species elaborated on in the tiles.

The garden echoes the circle of the parabolic and undulating landscape, creating radiating rings outside of it that suggest the representation of a wave front (of light) radiating outward. The moat will collect rain-water supplying critical drinking water to butterflies, wasps and bees especially. Under the pollinator garden the pumice wick retains the water feeding out from the parabolic, and conserving water in drought times. The larger surrounding area landscaped with ryegrass will be planted instead with wild flowers in some years."

~ by Ana MacArthur

Next Generation Science Standards

Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande

Taos Land Trust and the Pollinator Concentrator installation participated as a regional collaborator in the Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande, an exhibition presented by 516 ARTS at multiple venues in Albuquerque and partner venues in the Rio Grande watershed spanning CO, NM, TX and Mexico.

A series of regional public programs responded to the global biological crisis described in the new UN Report that officially state that nature’s dangerous decline is “unprecedented,” and species extinction rates are accelerating at an alarming pace. According to a recent New York Times editorial, the report says, “‘Biodiversity’ — a word encompassing all living flora and fauna — ‘is declining faster than at any time in human history,’ estimating that ‘around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades,’ unless the world takes transformative action to save natural systems.” Developed in partnership with the Art & Ecology Program at the University of New Mexico (UNM), Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande explored how the river connects us across borders and disciplines, and is designed to provide education and spur dialogue around pressing ecological issues of our time. As the project came to a close end of 2019, the organizers decided to build a website with an archive of what was accomplished that could serve as a resource for learning, teaching, scholarship and community organizing.

VISIT THE SPECIES IN PERIL WEBSITE HERE for real time resources around the topic of species in peril and biodiversity loss.

Space Messengers is made possible in part by the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund for U.S. Alumni; an opportunity sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by Partners of the Americas. This project is supported in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the National Endowment for the Arts

STEMarts Curriculum Tool (c) 2012, 2018, 2021 STEMarts Lab
content free to share under the Creative Commons license.
Webmasters: Adrian Gulo and Joshua Haggard