A World in Our Streams at High School Park

Join me on Thursday, July 18th at 5:30pm for the artist talk about my site-specific installation A World in Our Streams. This project, which I call “sculptural habitat,” is sponsored by the Endangered Species Coalition as part of their Pollinator Protectors program. It is the fifth work of art that I have created in collaboration with High School Park, a restored native ecosystem near my home in Elkins Park, PA.  

The aim of this artwork, which is installed in Tookany Creek as it runs through the Park, is twofold: 1) to create more habitat for aquatic macroinvertebrates; and 2) raise awareness about the important role they play in our ecosystems. The installation consists of pieces made from willow branches–inspired by the woven fish traps used by Indigenous cultures all over the world (check out this video about how they’re used)–and Hester-Dandy samplers, a tool used by biologists to collect macroinvertebrate samples from freshwater. Katie Grove, an artist and educator who makes incredible works based on wild basketry techniques, tutored me in basket weaving, a craft I had never tried. I’m grateful for her expertise! 

So, What Is An Aquatic Macroinvertebrate? And Why Do They Matter?
Many aquatic macroinvertebrates are insects in their larvae or nymph state that spend most of their lives in freshwater habitats. Some macroinvertebrates are pollinators when they become adults, or are a food source for other pollinators. Macroinvertebrates are important indicators of the health of freshwater systems, including streams, rivers, and lakes. For example, the samples I collected from Tookany Creek included a number of caddisfly larvae, which are very senstitive to pollution. Therefore we can conclude that the water in this section of the creek is relatively healthy. 

In addition to the Endangered Species Coalition and Friends of High School Park, I am also collaborating with the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF) and have received invaluable guidance from the Stroud Water Resesarch Center for this project. I will be co-facilitating an interactive workshop with TTF in late August, where we will look at samples of macroinvertebrates from the sculpture and identify what we see!