climate change  + wetland ecology + testing + narrative writing + experience design + material exploration


thesis research // 2021

Understanding the salt marshes of Rhode Island as a means to communicate the impact of a changing climate.

Drone shot by department of Digital Media, RISD at a group site study, Jamestown

“Exploit the imaginative, speculate possible near futures and position them where the poetic crosses between science fiction and the built reality.”

︎phase 1.0 // exploration

I was introduced to different sites, tools, and systems that help in understanding and assessing the many aspects of the Narragansett Bay. 

Starting with a visit to the University of Rhode Island’s School of Oceanography to learn about remote sensing equipment, research, and analysis of water bodies by designing ‘underwater navigation systems’ with Professor Mingxi Zhou, to collecting plankton from Tillinghast farm and learning about its many behaviours and types, observing the collections under a microscope with guidance from Dr. Patricia Thibodeau.

L-R // Collecting plankton ︎︎︎ filtering ︎︎︎ view under the microscope Photos made with M Lindon ︎︎︎

L-R // archive ︎︎︎ seaweed pressing demo with Hope Leeson ︎︎︎ work in progress ︎︎︎ final ︎︎︎

︎phase 2.0 // site study

Visiting different salt marshes in and around Providence, Rhode Island including Colt State Park, Portsmouth, Tillinghast farm, and Hailer farm preserve. In the process, I used different documentation tools to capture audio, video, material samples, etc.

Colt State Park ︎︎︎ Hailer Farm Preserve

I used a hydrophone with a Zoom H4n recorder to capture sounds in the marsh landscape. An Airbeam was used to record the temperature, humidity and particulate matter. Samples of water and soil were collected to test the pH level and salinity to record the different data points between each site


︎phase 3.0 // drawing board

My personal experiences shaped a large part of the experiment that I conceptualised for this project. How could I bring my audience to understand, immerse, and value this lesser-known ecosystem? One that is often ignored in the excitement of running down the sandy beaches, or one that smells like rotten food. In other words, an undesirable landscape.

“Another step. This time peppered with doubt. Land, water, vegetation, traversing through the known unknowns. Will the next step dampen the black combat boots or graze the dry spikes beneath the sole? Do I belong here?” 

︎phase 4.0 // interaction

Simulating the experience of walking through a marsh and interacting with the ecosystem. This participatory installation used a multimedia approach with a combination of film, audio, graphics, and textures. Each audience member was asked to spend two minutes with the work and follow the instructions in the film. As the protagonist takes their first step in the marsh, the audience wears a shoe prototype and steps into the soil filled bucket infront of them. Much to their surprise, the tactile experience is designed in a way that it gives a feeling of walking in a wet, spongy landscape. The final step asks them to stamp their foot on the paper to reveal the message “Your footprint matters”.

exhibit + interaction ︎︎︎ video + narration ︎︎︎

If you are interested in knowing more about this project or contributing in ways it could reach a wider audience, drop a line on vmathur@risd.edu