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mobilis in mobili

Drifting with/in planktonic seas

„Multispecies environmental justice must be as much about play, storytelling and joy as about work, critique and pain."

(Donna Haraway, Staying with the trouble for multispecies environmental justice, 2018)

Oceanic ecologies inherit sites and cycles for sensing practices in the making. These fluid bodies are teeming with microscopic organisms that collectively provide important ecosystem services, while humans develop techno-scientific tools to analyze and transform these complex ecologies. Among these microorganisms, phytoplankton, often referred to as „wanderers of the plant“ (Greek φυτόν [phytó], ‘plant‘; πλαγκτός [planktos], ‚wanderer, wanderer‘),emerge as both keystone species and integral components of intricate marine and terrestrial systems. Not only do they absorb and convert the critically overproduced CO2, but they also produce oxygen in quantities equal to that of all terrestrial plants; breathing us into being and connecting us to global ecologies. As the foundation of the oceanic food web, they provide organic matter for all other marine life and positively influence carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, disruptions caused by oceanic changes pose a threat to their rhythmic dance between light and darkness, oxygenation and hypoxia, and production and predation. Yet, as collectives, they continue their dance, narrating stories of hope beyond human dimensions.

Changes in the oceans due to acidification, salinity decrease, eutrophication, and rising temperatures are interrupting their rhythmic dances between light and dark, oxygenated and hypoxic waters, producers and prey. Such shifts in bio-geochemical processes lead to transformations in the biological carbon pump and diel vertical migration (DVM), sedimentation, and also to threats and forced drifts for “plant drifters”. By considering the ocean not only as an unexplored space to be saved,but also as mind exercise, this dissertation addresses the challenges of these displaced and altered ecologies with/in planktonic realms.

How might the chains of life and the affected beings in seascapes be rendered ‘sensable’? How can a correspondence between entities unfold? How to articulate intuitively allocated tacit knowledges with more-than humans within an academic framework?

This PhD project is part of the SNF "Interfacing the Ocean" at ZHdK Zurich.

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