Oceans are full of colourful biodiversity. After all, we are the blue planet in our solar system, that we ironically call Earth. Oceans cover more than 70% of our planet, and at least as many species that live on land. Most of us see this magnificent beauty through the medium of documentaries, books and the Internet, and for the super keen, through the actual experience of scuba diving itself. Marine scientists have the excitement of many more discoveries to be made about the biodiversity that lives in this underwater world. And yet, human activities are rapidly affecting both the quality and quantity of marine life through overexploitation of fishing, oil seismic exploration and tourism to name a few. As global warming continues, ocean acidification will continue to adversely affect marine life.
As a student activity, selecting a range of marine species to draw encourages further learning and reflection of their current state of beauty and to appreciate what could be lost. Through enhancing scientific visual literacy skills, marine illustrations aid in the visual impact of scientific information. I have drawn a range of illustrations both above and below, with the intent that they can be coloured in, combining science and art skills.
I can recall memories of swimming in Waikiki beach in Hawaii, surrounded all too frequently by rubbish. A dashing visit to the Maldives shocked me more by rubbish lying about the shorelines of the capital, Male Island. Resorts and beach villas have transformed coral reef and atoll ecosystems. Swimming in the Galapagos Islands I discovered a lack of colourful coral reefs and fish to be seen, although strict regulated tourism procedures were evident. Coral reefs have a high degree of biological diversity concentrated in a small area, and are sometimes referred to as the rainforests of the oceans. Coral reef systems are also incredibly vulnerable to destruction, as they grow slowly and are sensitive to changes such as rising seawater and increasing temperatures.
Our ocean is a symphony, where marine species such as the whales and dolphins communicate and navigate over vast distances. Sound travels considerably much further distances than through the atmosphere. Sonic sea, a documentary shown recently at the science festival in Dunedin, explored how human activities are adversely affecting marine wildlife. It really is alarming at the distress marine life is being subjected to, many of these larger marine species having grown up in much quieter oceans. Whales are more frequently beaching themselves as a consequence. Noise pollution, overfishing, oil drilling and ocean acidification are some reasons for our wildlife being adversely affected. The big question here is what are we prepared to do about it – to maintain biodiversity and colour in our oceans.