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One Tree One Planet, between art and science

Collaboration between art and science by artist Naziha Mestaoui, and scientists Douglas Soltis, Pamela Soltis  Robert Guralnick. University of Florida scientists have teamed up with acclaimed artists to create a two-story-tall interactive art piece about the connections between all life forms. Discover how you are connected to all life forms with which we share our planet, and get inspired with ways you can help protect life on Earth. The project celebrates Earth’s rich diversity of animals, plants and microbes represented by the Tree of Life, the immense network of relationships that links all living things. The melody of the elegant music in artist Naziha Mestaoui’s One Tree, One Planet projection is billions of years old and inside each of us.The music is made based on the DNA sequence that we share with every living organism on earth.

MESSAGE

The knowledge of the Tree of Life, and by extension, knowledge of biodiversity on Earth, can change the world. Through understanding that humans are connected to the rest of life; evolutionarily, we share DNA and genealogical connections and ecologically – we share the same planet. We’re not at the top of the pyramid, but just  one branch at the periphery of the tree of life, like our planet is at the periphery of the solar system, or our solar system, at the periphery of our galaxy… We are a dot into an interconnected network of life.

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“One Tree, One Planet” celebrates Earth’s rich diversity of animals, plants and microbes represented by the Tree of Life, the immense network of relationships that links all living things. The message is simple: We’re all related. “Just like you’re connected to your family, other species on Earth are also your family members,” said Doug Soltis, the project’s principal investigator, a distinguished professor and curator at the Florida Museum. “As humans, we are just part of a much bigger web of life, and unless we cherish those connections, we all suffer.” Soltis, a plant biologist, was part of a team of scientists that assembled the most comprehensive Tree of Life created, mapping the shared evolutionary history of and relationships between all 2.3 million species that have been named so far on the planet. The Tree of Life shows us how all life is connected and constantly evolving. It’s our ancestral family tree, tracing the relationships between all living things.

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Humans are one dot in a complex network of life, and we still have much to learn about the ways in which we are alike and different from other members of the tree. Yet we share startling genetic similarities with many life forms, from bacteria to great blue whales and giant redwoods. We are all connected in the Tree of Life, and the loss of any species impacts us all and threatens life on our planet. We also can help protect and enhance life not only for the good of our giant family tree, but for our own health and well-being. There are a number of actions each one of us can take to make a difference.

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THE MUSIC, a DNA symphony

The projection is paired with a symphony performance composed by Naziha Mestaoui and Stephan Haeri which was created by digitizing and assigning a musical note to DNA. DNA  music gives us important information about genes, their complexity, their evolution, the way they evolve. Genes become the pattern for music. The DNA music created for the project is composed out of the genes we share with every living organism on earth. Thoses genes have been decoded and each amino acid has been transformed into a note. Their succession becomes a symphony of life. The idea is to understand that there is a unity and a harmony and something that connects us all. The DNA music gives us many information about the tree of life. with each specie the interpretation of the music evolves; with mammals we hear chords, with bacterias we hear a very clear and purified sound, with plants the music starts echoing as plants evolve with genes duplication or triplication… The whole artistic environment also resonantes with heartbeats. Each interaction starts with the participant’s heartbeat and connects with a specie’s physiological rhythm.

TEAM

Naziha Mestaoui

Paris-based environmental artist and architect Naziha Mestaoui is a pioneer of digital art whose work creates immersive and sensory experiences by blending space, imagery and technology. Her interactive multimedia exhibits question Western culture’s disconnection with the environment and re-center nature at the heart of cultural issues. Through her art, she invites us to use technologies to reconnect with nature, creating a dynamic that can inspire our future. One of her most recognized projects – “One Heart, One Tree” – debuted at the United Nations Climate Conference in December 2015. Mestaoui produced grand-scale “forests of light” through interactive projections of trees that spanned on the Eiffel Tower. Spectators used their smartphones to virtually create a tree that grew [Office1] at the rhythm of their heartbeat on the monuments. A real tree has been planted for each of the 52,677 virtual trees created during the event, allowing participants to become partners in reforestation. Mestaoui’s work has been exhibited around the globe, including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Photography in Tokyo, the Contemporary Art Biennale in Sevilla, Miami Art Basel and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai. www.nazihamestaoui.com www.1heart1tree.org

Douglas E. Soltis

Douglas Soltis is a Distinguished Professor in the Laboratory of Molecular Systematics & Evolutionary Genetics, (Soltis lab.) Florida Museum of Natural History and Department of Biology at the University of Florida.[1] His research interests are in plant evolution and phylogeny,[1] an area in which he has published extensively together with his wife Pamela Soltis[2] and together they were the joint awardees of the 2006 Asa Gray Award. They are the principal investigators in the Soltis laboratory, where they both hold the rank of Distinguished Professor and are contributing authors of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qXz9X-rltE

Pamela Soltis

Pamela Soltis is an American botanist. She is a distinguished professor at the University of Florida and principal investigator of the Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolutionary Genetics at the Florida Museum of Natural History.[1] She received her Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1986. Dr. Soltis research interests are angiosperm phylogeny, phylogeography, polyploidy, and conservation genetics.[2] Among her most cited contributions are papers on the role of genetic and genomic attributes in the success of polyploids. In 2016, Dr. Soltis was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Soltis was President of the Botanical Society of America 2007-08.

Rob Guralnick

Rob Guralnick is a biodiversity scientist who takes an integrative approach to global change biology. Although interested in theory and practice of the discipline, his work is also geared towards the mobilization and (re)-use of biodiversity records already collected such as biocollections records and data from the literature. He is a Curator of Biodiversity Informatics.

James Rosindell – ONE ZOOM

Biodiversity theorist with a particular interest in ecological neutral theory and its varied applications. He arrived at Imperial College during January 2012 and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded his current position with a postdoctoral research fellowship and later with an independent research fellowship.  He is interested in public engagement activities and created the OneZoom tree of life explorer website (www.onezoom.org) which is now run as an independent registered charity.

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