Toxic algal blooms in Florida continues to be a growing threat in our sensitive freshwater habitats. Caused by excessive amounts of pollution and runoff, these outbreaks are threatening citizen’s health and livelihoods, as well as killing off a vast amount of marine life. Without proper regulations on sewage and runoff from representatives, this problem will only become worse as the years go on. Biological treatment is possible through the reintroduction of natural plants in floating treatment wetlands, harnessing the natural ability of plants to decontaminate the water. In this research I have attempted to address the urgent environmental crisis brought by toxic algae to the state of Florida from the perspective of art. This research features small-scale floating treatment wetlands that will reintroduce native species to Florida's waters. They use the natural form of the lily pad with recycled Plexiglas to further push a hybrid natural/technological design. The completed piece uses laser-etched vectorized images of different plant leaf cells, creating abstract cell walls that fraternize with each other when all placed with each other. The pieces have seven different sizes, suggesting growth in an inorganic form. Unlike past floating treatment wetlands, these prototypes are meant to stand out, drawing in viewers whilst educating them on Florida’s toxic algae problem as well as adding cultural and aesthetic value to any aquatic habitat that they are placed in.
The main goals of the finalized pieces were to be functional, be aesthetically pleasing, draw in viewership, and to operate as a normal floating treatment wetland system. Another set of goals are based around the shareability and replicability of my files and forms. It is important to me and my research that this can grow outside of me, that other people can use my basic forms and make it more functional or adapt to another environment, say for another area around the Gulf that is not a part of Florida. While creating the basic shape for the lily, I first looked to natural shapes in the environment. Hexagons are one of the more prominent shapes in the natural environment, a commonly used shape normally associated with bees that confounded Greek philosopher Pappus of Alexandria thought that the bees must be endowed with “a certain geometrical forethought” (Ball). I wanted to arrange multiple pieces to create an aquatic sculpture garden, so there was a need for shapes that could fit together like hexagons. However, hexagons and bees do not really go with water systems nor the concepts that were being implemented into the pieces, so I looked for aquatic patterns and nature and became enthralled by lily pads, specifically giant lily pads that already had a natural wall on the side. A collection of lily pads can seem random, overlapping, but always very aesthetically pleasing. I took the form of the lily pad and made it geometric for both structural ease as well as pushing a natural/inorganic feel. After some online research, I found multiple companies that create recycled Plexiglas that was this very unnatural neon green that would further push hybrid natural/technological design. This is where it started all coming together. The shape is easily replicable and shareable, almost a template. They were created with the intention to be laser cut but it is also doable just with a band saw and a miter. The laser cutter file has holes for roots are filtration, but also for the sewing of the floatation matrix if applicable. The completed piece also uses laser-etched vectorized images of different plant leaf cells on the sides, adding interest and another pattern that can layered. The microscope images were sourced from copyright free labs and vectorized so that the laser could read them. The plant leaf cells used for the prototypes were random but, in the future, if given access, I would like to use native Florida species that would be planted in the floating treatment wetlands. After many trials and errors, the best floatation matrix that I found were pool noodles that I put through the saw a few times. Best for its availability, cheapness, color, and long-term floatation, the pool noodles worked the best very surprisingly. However, this was only in a three month test, in a shallow pool, so it will need to be tested in an actual freshwater habitat.