The Adrift Project

Adrift is an experimental online visualisation tool that enables citizen scientists, without technical or scientific training, to access, analyse and collect data about marine microbes.

Project Website: adrift-project.com
KDL Research Lead/s: A/Prof Jacqueline Lorber Kasunic (Co-I) and Prof Kate Sweetapple (Co-I)
Partner Leads: Prof Martina Doblin, CI, Prof Nancy Longnecker
Date: 2017-2020
Partner/s:
UTS Faculty of Science, C3 Climate Change Cluste; Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago; Bureau of Meteorology; Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS); and the Australian National Maritime Museum.Funding: Inspiring Australia – Science Engagement Program Grant (Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science)

The Adrift project is comprised of two parts, a website and a museum installation.

The website

Adrift is an experimental online visualisation tool that enables citizen scientists, without technical or scientific training, to access, analyse and collect data about marine microbes.

Marine microbes are the foundational building blocks of the underwater food-web and are estimated to consume almost 50% of the Earth’s carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis. Invisible to the naked eye, the health and movement of marine microbes is difficult to visualise even for scientists – let alone everyday citizens. 

When visiting the Adrift website, participants ‘drop’ virtual microbes into the global ocean, simulating journeys based on oceanic data. These journeys produce data including the geographic origin of the simulation (latitude/longitude), distance traveled, and variations in temperature and nutrients experienced by the microbes. Using the visualisation tool, participants analyse these variations, enabling oceanographers to identify areas where real life microbes experience extremes in their growth conditions.

While the growth in data visualisation software and online platforms has provided non-experts with the ability to be involved in scientific inquiry, the highly specialised nature of scientific visual language still prevents wider participation and deeper understanding of complex problems. This project creates more accessible and meaningful visual languages with which to explore and communicate complex and urgent scientific data and its implications on the future of the planet.

The Australian National Maritime Video Installation

This video installation is a composite of virtual journeys generated by the Adrift community of global citizen scientists. To create the installation we translated thousands of data points into journey lines that provide an experiential understanding of marine microbial life. The lines provide viewers with temporal, spatial, and contextual information they need to make sense of what would otherwise remain abstract. 

The video begins with a map of the world’s oceans and seas. No landforms are visible. A microbe is ‘dropped’ into the ocean, and its trajectory is mapped. Over the course of three hours, 2000 unique marine microbial journeys are plotted, giving the viewer a sense of distance traveled and the dynamism of the oceans currents.

Posters I Atlantic I Southern I Indian I Sth Pacific

Project Team: Professor Martina Doblin (Lead CI) C3 Faculty of Science, UTS; A/Professor Jacqueline Lorber Kasunic (Co-I) School of Design, UTS; Professor Kate Sweetapple (Co-I) School of Design, UTS; Professor Nancy Longnecker (Co-I) Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago; Thomas Ricciardiello (Designer + developer) School of Design, UTS; Kristelle De Freitas (Designer) School of Design, UTS; Charles Yuncken (Motion Designer) School of Design, UTS; Dr Michaela Larsson (Postdoctoral Research Associate) C3 Faculty of Science, UTS; Andrea Liberatore (Research Assistant) Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago