Drawing by designer and builder Matt Muller 

Charcoal drawing by Holly Ewald (prototype, snapshots of the animation)

As human activities continue to degrade freshwater ecosystems as a result of pesticides and fertilizers more harmful algal blooms are reported causing people to rely on chemical treatments, such as algaecides. In contrast, constructed wetlands are floating ecosystems that create habitats above and below the water line through the growth of plants. Their continuous growth cleans and restores water by amplifying the natural processes occurring between sunlight, water, plants, and microorganisms.

This project is part of an interdisciplinary collaboration whose objective is to design and launch three prototypes of constructed wetlands made of natural materials and native plants. The second objective is to cultivate public curiosity and engagement regarding freshwater pollution. The third objective is to learn from the ecological knowledge of the Narragansett tribe.

In addition, together with artist Holly Ewald, we seek to create a poetic drawing in motion of a floating wetland and the microorganisms that develop on the suspended roots systems. This animation is a speculative exercise in thnking about how to understand the life cycle of a plant and the rhythm of its becoming. The process of representing processes that are invisible to the eye through drawing cultivates a space for novel questions to emerge that can only be found through a scientific lens. This visualization combines art and science to cultivate public curiosity and engagement regarding freshwater pollution.


  • To cultivate public curiosity and engagement regarding freshwater pollution
  • To create an opportunity for the public to experience the growth and transformation over time of plants
  • To introduce the public to nature-based solutions that improve water quality and create habitat for other species
  • To demonstrate the value of the artist’s lens on addressing freshwater pollution and engaging in ecological restoration projects.
  • To create a buoyant structure using diverse plant materials in contrast to petroleum-based materials
  • To regenerate the food web through a natural and passive way as an alternative to chemical treatments