This past winter, the Faculty of Science teamed up with the Waterloo Region Museum to create two displays for the new Ocean Bound! exhibit. This collaboration, formed with Waterloo’s Earth Sciences Museum and the Students of the Water Institute Graduate Section (SWIGS), aimed to educate the public about ocean watersheds, aquatic animals and ecosystems.
“The exhibit focuses on the oceans but it shows the impact of how our day-to-day routines affect water both locally and globally in our aquatic ecosystems,” says Earth Science Museum Curator Corina McDonald.
One display, reminiscent of a giant pop bottle machine, is made up of 200 recycled plastic bottles and shows how many litres of water the average person uses in a single day. This interactive display lights up with the touch of a finger and shows water usage through an engaging and hands-on approach.
Despite increases in the area’s population, Waterloo Region water usage per person has declined dramatically over the last two decades from 400 litres to 195 litres per person. The decrease is a testament to how well the community is working to conserve water.
However, there is still the large issue of the several thousand plastic water bottles that are used daily. In fact, 500,000 bottles are collected from residences in Waterloo Region each day.
To show the impact in an artistic way, SWIGS collected over 5000 plastic bottles and repurposed them into sculptures of ocean creatures.
The larger-than-life sculptures resembled a sea turtle, a jellyfish, an octopus and a stingray. Named the ‘creatures of the gyre’, these animals inhabit ocean gyres, regions of the oceans surrounded by large rotating ocean currents.
“Every year, more and more human-made garbage makes its way to our oceans,” says former SWIGS Outreach Chair and Earth and Environmental Sciences alumna Cailin Hillier, MSc ‘14. “It is estimated that plastic in the oceans contributes to the death of over 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds each year.”
Based on recycled bottle statistics, it takes 20 minutes for the region to produce the number of bottles used in the sculptures.
“It’s great that our department and graduate students are contributing to the local museums,” says McDonald.
The Ocean Bound! exhibit ran from January 30 to May 10, 2015. The exhibition was created by the Sciencenter of Ithaca, New York, with funding from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The pop bottle display will be at the Waterloo Wellington Children’s Groundwater Festival next week from May 25-29. The display was first created during the inaugural year of the festival and will return this year to show the difference in water usage between now and 20 years ago.