The Art of Observation - Dr Charlotte Braungardt


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The Art of Observation - Dr Charlotte Braungardt

There’s a difference between looking and seeing. One way of encouraging seeing is drawing.

During the last Sail Training Ireland voyage of this summer, the voyage crew on board Pelican of London explored the weird and wondrous world of plankton by drawing the ‘critters’ seen under the microscope.

Plankton are drifters in the ocean and range in size from microscopically tiny to the biggest jellyfish. We’ve collected ours with a plankton net with a mesh size of 1/10 mm and got a wide variety of marine algae (phytoplankton, mainly diatoms and dinoflagellates), tiny animals that graze on algae and slightly larger animals that eat the smaller animals (zooplankton).

The trainees designed Wanted! posters of their favourite plankton spotted under the microscope and it didn’t come as a surprise that ‘Plankton’ from SpongeBob featured strongly. The artistic efforts featured more or less detailed descriptions, some very skilled drawings and even humour.

Emily Lee, marine biology student at the University of Plymouth and currently on board as watch leader, helped me to demystify some of the SpongeBob-related misconceptions about the nature and ecology of plankton.

Prizes for the best posters rounded off a fun session.

Images: C Braungardt 2023

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