3rd UF Water Institute Symposium Abstract

Submitter's Name Katherine Helms
Session Name Posters - Understanding Natural, Anthropogenic and Legacy Sources of Nutrients
Category Understanding natural, anthropogenic and legacy sources of nutrients
Poster Number 64
Author(s) Katherine Helms,  University of Florida (Presenting Author)
  Urban Watershed Project
  Beginning in 2004, I began formulating an integrated system of working methods to harness the strengths of both the scientific and artistic disciplines to create sculptures, drawings, paintings, and installations. As an ecological artist with a scientific background, I strive to translate empirically documented research into prototypical visual models, conveying authentic data in accessible formats. I view investigatory research and the process of data collection and representation as an opportunity to contribute to the burgeoning branch of science-based art. Begun in 2009, Urban Watershed Project focuses on highly impacted urban watersheds in Gainesville, Florida, a city with an outdated stormwater management infrastructure with limited storage and retention potential. As a result, much of the city’s stormwater races off the impervious surfaces of the urban environment and into local creeks, contributing to numerous environmental impacts including channel incision. I became interested in measuring the degree of incision in the watershed. I conducted cross-sectional topographic surveys of Tumblin and Sweetwater Branch Creeks to identify and document highly eroded segments. Through the collection of my own measurements, I would have direct physical contact with each data point on the graphs and subsequent artworks, codifying a direct relationship with existing topographies. The output of Urban Watershed Project has been diverse, from extensive field journals to maps, charts, CAD drawings, sculptures, and installations. For example, the welded steel rebar sculpture "Incised Channel" is a 20-ft scaled model of a segment of Sweetwater Branch Creek that invites the participant to walk through it as they view cross section maps on an adjacent wall. In providing an interactive experience illustrating urban creek erosion, the work serves to educate a community largely unaware of the issue. In conveying my process of data collection through unconventional formats, I hope to connect with a wider audience.