Pollinator Concentrator

Pollinator Concentrator is a site-specific, interspecies installation addressing the concern of pollinator decline and designed to radiate awareness of pollinators locally and broadly. Approaching the installation’s site a pole appears above a lush field of 4 ft. tall rye grass as if an antenna drawing one near. Surrounding the antenna is an undulation of landscape covered with short grass leading into its focal point, 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 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 edge of the parabolic will glow in ultraviolet light, using this frequency to attracts insects and some pollinators. This encounter potentially increases one’s ability to study and thus respect many minute creatures, and their roles, that otherwise go unnoticed.


 

BioSTEAM artist: 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.


BioSTEAM@Taos Land Trust

To launch the BioSTEAM Youth Program we partnered with Taos Land Trust and selected our first BioSTEAM artist, Ana MacArthur, who designed a site-specific interspecies installation called Pollinator Concentrator. The installation at Rio Fernando Park in Taos New Mexico explores the environmental topic of biodiversity and human impact with a focus on pollinators and bats. The unit explores how insects see, pollinate and navigate with the stars combined with bio-tech projects that collect and visualize data on pollinator species populations. The installation relates to the Rio Fernando Park mission of land, river and watershed revitalization.

Our goal was to beautify and promote the park with this site-specific installation and build curriculum around the artist work to be accessed for free through this online BioSTEAM platform. Through this collaboration we educate students and the community on the preservation work happening at the park, instill value for protecting our environment, and increase visitation to the park as a place to feel wonder, respect and inspiration for nature.

The BioSTEAM@Taos Land Trust Youth Program is designed to the Next Generation Science Standards and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and developed in conjunction with Taos Pueblo educators to create an interdisciplinary and intercultural learning experience. It provides a variety of online resources and activities to create projects for students, virtually or in the classroom.

We encourage all schools in Taos County and beyond to explore the online Virtual BioSTEAM Tour with their students and if possible, come visit the Pollinator Concentrator site-specific installation which will be unveiled this fall 2020 at Rio Fernando Park in Taos, New Mexico.

skills applied

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

MESSAGE FROM THE BIOSTEAM ARTIST


"My interest in the mixing of art, science, technology, and environmental knowledge came from a drive of curiosity. I have always been motivated to understand the alchemy of how things transform in nature and in technology. At a very young age I recognized my obsession with light, as I always moved my chair into the sunlight in the room. I discovered the thrill of collaborating with scientists while in art school in my early 20’s as I explored bringing light through clay by working with ceramic engineers who equally inspired me because of their curiosity about my ‘problem’. Living in NY City in the early 80’s I discovered the magical light of holograms and with the burning desire to make them and this expanded my knowledge of the physics of light by hands on trial and error. The nanostructure of the holographic film and its transformation of light influenced thinking about biological skins use of sunlight. Turning to a new century at 2000 the combined effects of climate change and species loss were tugging at me. At this turning point I studied biomimicry with Janine Benyus, finding it incorporated my interest in honoring and closely studying nature for ecological solutions. Explore the tiles of mostly local pollinators in the parabolic dish as a library to learn about these unusual creatures and the valuable work they are doing for us. We can be better stewards of our biodiversity if we first learn to notice who is there. Go to the STEAM Wiki below to dive into some fun explorations related to pollinators preservation, the role of UV light, and sundials." Ana MacArthur


How it Works


Science

This installation utilizes a parabolic pointing to a ‘concentrator of light’ with a focal point at the top of the pole, and referencing equally a satellite dish implying 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 spectrum of light and its function with pollinators. Many pollinators locate their nectar/ pollen by ultraviolet light markings in flowers seen by these species yet hidden from human vision. Pollinators see part of the spectrum that we don’t, and there are significant understandings regards safety for human vision looking at specific frequencies of UV. Equally 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. The pollinator garden will be planted with key plant species that attract pollinators and in cases matching up with species elaborated on in the tiles. Overall the teachings embedded in this work intend to bring a greater awareness to our animal family, that we necessarily share and need for our survival.

 

Technology

 

The focal point of the parabolic results from the exactness of its curve and based on the principle that if all light comes into the parabolic in parallel rays, when they hit the curve of the parabolic all the rays bend and meet at the focal point…the top of the pole. At the same time, this pole functions as a sundial as elaborated on in the description. There are UV LED’s embedded in conduit around the circumference of the parabolic. They will be powered by a battery and controlled by an arduino programed to create a slow undulation of the lights coming on and off in fluctuations, over a set period of hours, and on specific evenings allowing the TLT to schedule special events. The lights would always start at dusk. This technological set up utilizes ultrasonic mics to pick up bat sounds that would then be electronically designed to trigger the UV lights. The result being the lights responding like a ‘sensor’ of bat sounds. Taos Land Trust bat biologist, Mike Balistreri, discovered that there are 19 species of bats existing on the property.

 

Parabolic Dish

 

The parabolic is reminiscent of a lens focusing its energy to a focal point, the height of the pole. Working from rendering of mathematical coordinates, the parabolic information was transferred into Sketch Up to create renderings from which working construction drawings were produced by Mark Goldman’s class UNM- Taos, Construction Technologies. With Sketch Up designs were produced to create mold boxes to cast the parabolic in 4 parts. The entire dimension with 4 parts created a 10 ft. dia. 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 are placed on a footer of 6” deep of 1” gravel followed by 2” thick cement pavers. Around the outside of the entire parabolic is an undulating landscaping, berming the earth around the parabolic, with a lower level mote surrounding it so as to draw water away from the parabolic. This entire landscaping is covered with a short grass. 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.  

 

Pollinator Tiles

 

The tiles are 8” hexagons with entire surface composed of 280 tiles. There is a repeat of 9 differing pollinator species, 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. They are made from a cement material designed for outdoors – ECC formula, and will be sealed. They are dyed a range of blues – 1 pigment yet differing density, and the outer circumference tiles are lighter so that the UV lights show well. They are made at MacArthur’s studio and will be installed in the parabolic dish with with an assistant. The images of tiles were chosen for ease of laser etching a model in acrylic and from which a silicon mold is made, to then make multiple copies.  The rhythmic pattern of hexagons is reminiscent of beehive architecture or the geometry of a butterfly’s eye. The raised textures in the tiles make the pollinator image stand out. The tiles reference specific species, and will be accompanied by a Pollinator Library booklet as extended teachings, matching the pollinator with its host plant, and potential foods or products resulting utilized for human benefit.  

 

Pollinator Garden

 

A landscape architect Domini Riolo has designed a concept to compliment MacArthur’s installation and not impose. It echoes the circle of the parabolic and creates radiating rings outside of it that look like the representation of a wave front (of light) radiating out. The landscape undulates outward from the parabolic, with a moat dip outside of the parabolic. There is a drain in the moat that will collect water into the 4” pipe buried underground, which then feeds into a pumice wick. MacArthur’s original design has an arch garden of pollinator plants in the range of 30 ft. away from the western edge of the parabolic and appears like a portion of a larger concentric circle. This garden of pollinator plants creates a boundary protecting the parabolic and landscaping around it. This garden has a gate opening in its center allowing for entrance to the entire work, and is sited/centered between key large trees in the far distance creating a powerful symmetry. Under the pollinator garden there is a pumice wick to retain the water feeding out from the parabolic, and conserving water in drought times. I think the texture and details of the pollinators on tiles, and the pollinator garden attracting live pollinators will likely be something visitors will want to continually return to.

 

Bat Detector

 

The most powerful interaction may be the experience of the UV light drawing out the viewer’s curiosity about 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 19 species that live on the land. The UV lights are connected to an arduino programmed by David which receives the electronic signals from the bat detetctor. The result is that the UV lights will turn on when bats are detected in the area around the installation. This feature will be on display for special summer evening events. I feel it will stimulate a great sense of wonder and help to dispel myths about bats. In addition, David has programmed the ability to translate the ultrasound of bats to audiible frequencies so that the bat sounds can also be shared with the public and these interactive features will increase an understanding and curiosity of bats.

BioSTEAM Design Tool
 

The Stemarts Design Tool provides a step-by-step tool to show you how to engage with the Pollinator Concentrator, a site-specific interspecies installation at the Rio Fernando Park created by BioSTEAM Lab artist, Ana MacArthur. Explore the artist page to learn about the installation to understand its purpose and how it works. Research the science and technology behind the art. Experiment with our hands-on STEAM activities to learn about pollinators and biomimicry. Create your own polarizing viewers to learn the science behind how insects see. Take a field trip to experience the Pollinator Concentrator in person! Create art inspired by the artist's installation and the topic of biodiversity and contribute to citizen science projects. Be part of the solution! This tool will take you through each stage of the process. Just click on Explore to get started!

Explore the invisible relationships between light and our environment

Ana MacArthur makes art that speaks to the relationship between environmental intelligence, the study of light and applied technologies. In Pollinator Concentrator she asks us to be aware of pollinator decline while creating a site-specific land art installation that acts as an access point for metaphor as well as a pollinator garden and water catchment system that nourishes local pollinators. Ana’s history in working with light and light based technologies, has evolved to artworks increasingly immersed in the natural world. Her projects have developed from collaborations with scientists and are manifest in installations using light based media and site-specific projects. Explore Ana MacArthur’s Artist Page to learn about her work.

Research the science and technology behind the work

Animals have developed unique ways of seeing. For example, many animals see Ultra Violet light. Pollinators like bees and butterflies navigate using the position of the sun through our polarized atmosphere. Even bats use polarized light to navigate at night by the light of the Milky Way!  Scientists are mimicking these natural mechanisms to find solutions to real world problems. Dive into the STEAM Wiki to find more science, projects, and other cool stuff on the relationship of how pollinators see and their environment.

Experiment with mimicry of nature

A major theme in Ana MacArthur’s work is biomimicry. Biomimicry is an innovative approach to design that emulates natural systems and strategies to create sustainable solutions to the world’s challenges. How do insects see and how can we apply this to our design? Brainstorm some solutions to real world problems such as pollinator species decline inspired by nature. Create napkin sketches to collect and share your experimental solutions.

Make something to see the invisible

Create your own polarized light viewer inspired by pollinators and how they use light to navigate and find food. Use the STEAM wikis below to make your own polariscope, polarized mosaic, sun compass or other instrument for seeing the invisible qualities of light that are in our everyday experiences. Test out your creation inside and outside the classroom! See how insects see following the sun with your viewer. What do you observe? What difference do you observe inside and outside?  

STEAM wiki

The BioSTEAM-Wiki is a place to get started with your research on the topic of biodiversity loss and human impact You will find links to articles, images, video, and tutorials that we have collected around this tooic, with a focus on pollinators and bats.

You can search by clicking on the links below or you can click on the topic words in the word cloud for specific areas of interest. For example, ENVIRONMENTAL ART INSTALLATION to see more examples of this type of art. If you are looking for STEM + Art activities type in STEAM Activities. For original activities custom designed for the BioSTEAM project type STEMarts Lab.

Remember the resource is an open-forum sharing links and ideas that others have found – always check your sources and give credit where credit is due. The open source movement generously shares its knowledge and relies on user feedback – so if there’s something really good or doesn’t work let others know.

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