“Have you ever thought of what the microscopic, drifting, primary producers that the ocean is teeming with have done for you? These are the phytoplankton, and they are grazed by animals known as zooplankton. All ocean life and we humans, depend on plankton because they are the start of the food chain. Plankton dominates the biomass of the oceans. Phytoplankton perform nearly half of the photosynthesis on Earth, fixing carbon dioxide and producing half of the oxygen we breathe. The most common zooplankton, the copepods, outnumber insects as the most abundant animals on Earth. The abundance and success of all marine life is dependent on the health of the plankton. They are our oceanic “canaries in the coal mine”.
Plankton also impacts human health directly. Some phytoplankton species are toxic and form large harmful algal blooms, contaminating shellfish and causing poisoning and death in humans. Some zooplankton are venomous, such as the box jellyfish and Irukandji species, causing severe pain and death and beach closures in Northern Australia.
Plankton influence the pace and extent of climate change. Many phytoplankton species produce chemicals that influence rain and cloud patterns. Phytoplankton remove carbon from the ocean surface via photosynthesis. Zooplankton graze the phytoplankton and then export the carbon as faecal pellets or carcasses which sink to the ocean floor and lock the carbon from the atmosphere for thousands to millions of years – it would be much warmer if this carbon had not been taken up by the ocean. Over geological time, the accumulation of carbon from plankton on the seafloor has formed the oil and natural gas deposits we use today. So tread lightly.”
Claire Davies and Dr Ruth Eriksen
Diane Masters works primarily as a printmaker using fire and water etching and aquatint processes for her multiple layered prints. Her images are drawn from her experience of living in small rural and remote communities in North East Tasmania, Christmas Island, Western Australia and New South Wales and address ideas of migration, cultural shift and a nomadic sense of belonging. Since her return to Tasmania in 2008, Diane has completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Tasmania School of Fine Art in Hobart with a double major in painting and printmaking. She also completed a Masters in Fine Arts and Design (Printmaking) in 2013. Diane has been a finalist in a number of major art awards such as the Hobart Art Prize, Burnie Print Prize, Birchalls Tertiary Art Award and Bay of Fires Art Prize. One of her paintings was recently selected for use as the cover of Richard Flanagan’s latest novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North.