Julien Masson is a multimedia artist with a background in fine art and 3D computer visualisation. Experimentation and innovation are very important in his science- and technology-informed practice. His work aims to highlight the issues of our time and help the debate along. With ecosystems being under increasing strain it is important for Julien to remind the public of the current situation and the risks for the future.
Blooms is a reflection on the place and role of humankind in our environment to counterbalance the extreme changes caused by human activities and the ongoing exploitation of natural resources.
An experimental approach with different techniques and glitches emerging from 3D animation programs generates strange and novel aesthetics, discovering new languages whilst at the same time reminding us of the challenges we are facing in our society.
Blooms of microscopic algae occur in a seemingly uncontrollable expansion in the environment. These Algae tides result from large concentrations of aquatic microorganisms dominated by toxic dinoflagellates and diatoms and can severely affect marine habitats. The effects of the so-called bloom events range from shading, to irritating delicate organs of cultured organisms, to producing toxins that may have severe effects on cultivated organisms and human consumers.
Algal Blooms are mainly found in inshore waters and estuaries and result in subsequent population crashes. Bacterial decomposition may reduce the oxygen in the water. Algae tides are often accompanied by a release of toxins which may poison higher echelons of the food chain. The retention of toxins produced in phytoplankton blooms can have a range of harmful effects on fish, shellfish and humans. Whereas some toxins disappear from shellfish soon after the bloom has subsided, other toxins can remain in the environment for months. The toxins are a health hazard but also the source of severe economic loss.
Some diatoms have spines that irritate the gills of fish and shellfish. They may cause lesions and encourage infections in fish raised in pens. The Chrysophyte alga’s bloom events, also known as brown tides, have a direct toxic effect on shellfish, while also blocking the sunlight and causing harm to other phytoplankton.
Toxic algal blooms are on the rise all around the world and the frequency and number of localities have increased considerably over the past few decades. The possible reasons for this change can be caused by an increase in coastal nutrient or general water pollution (be it for domestic, industrial, or agricultural resasons or for an increase in mariculture). This often results in local release of large quantities of nutrients and may cause disturbance to local habitats and thus stimulating harmful algal bloom growth.
Interestingly Oceanographic processes can be an important factor in causing harmful blooms. And some Dinoflagellates have resting states that can survive in sediment for many years. Given the problematic effects of algae blooms, there is urgent need for rethinking water systems globally.