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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. Those 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 resonates with heartbeats. Each interaction starts with the participant’s heartbeat and connects with a specie’s physiological rhythm.

TEAM

A collaboration between art and science by artist Naziha Mestaoui, and scientists Douglas Soltis, Pamela Soltis, Robert Guralnick, Matt Gitzendanner, Yan Wong and James Rosindell.
In partnership with OneZoom, a UK charitable incorporated organisation (non-profit)
DNA Music by Naziha Mestaoui and Stefan Haeri
Software development by NOXAKA- Leila Aït Kaci
App development by UCAYA

Tree of Life explorer software built using the OneZoom codebase with developments specific to ONE TREE, ONE PLANET by Jamie Lentin.  (See www.onezoom.org/about and for further acknowledgements related to the tree of life explorer, and www.onezoom.org/data_sources for detailed data sources)

Naziha Mestaoui

Mestaoui is a Paris-based environmental artist and architect whose work creates immersive and sensory experiences by blending space, imagery and technology. Through her art, she invites us to use technologies to reconnect with nature, creating a dynamic that can inspire our future. Mestaoui’s work has been exhibited around the globe including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Photography in Tokyo.
www.nazihamestaoui.com

Douglas E. Soltis

Soltis, the principal investigator of the “One Tree, One Planet” series, is a distinguished curator in the Florida Museum of Natural History Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolutionary Genetics and a distinguished professor in the University of Florida department of biology. His research interests focus on plant evolution and phylogeny. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2017 and, along with his wife Pamela Soltis, was the joint awardee of the 2006 Asa Gray award which recognizes lifetime achievement in plant systematics. The Soltises were also awarded the Darwin-Wallace Medal in 2016 by the Linnean Society of London in recognition of major advances in evolutionary biology. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qXz9X-rltE

Pamela Soltis

A distinguished curator in the Florida Museum Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolutionary Genetics, Soltis studies plant diversity with an emphasis on the origin and evolution of flowering plants, plant genome evolution and conservation genetics. She is also the director of the University of Florida Biodiversity Institute. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2016 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017, along with her husband Douglas Soltis. She currently serves on a National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine committee to investigate the value and future of biological collections.

Rob Guralnick

An associate curator of biodiversity informatics at the Florida Museum of Natural History, Guralnick researches biodiversity with a focus on spatiotemporal changes in genetic and species diversity. He uses an integrative approach to global change biology and his work is also geared toward the mobilization and re-use of already collected biodiversity records like biocollections records.

Matt Gitzendanner

Gitzendanner is a scientist in the UF department of biology and collection manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History. He focuses on genomics, bioinformatics and population and conservation genetics and has considerable computational expertise in dealing with big data and building large relationship trees.

James Rosindell – OneZoom

Rosindell is a research fellow/lecturer in biodiversity theory and science outreach at Imperial College London.  Together with Yan Wong and others, he created the OneZoom tree of life explorer website www.onezoom.org which provides the interactive tree explorer engine for One Tree One Planet. OneZoom is now run as an independent registered charity for which Rosindell and Wong serve as board members. In his other research work Rosindell is interested in models of biodiversity and their applications in conservation, ecology and evolution.

Yan Wong - OneZoom

Wong is an evolutionary biologist with expertise in maths, genetics and computing. He worked as a lecturer in evolutionary biology and ecology at the University of Leeds before moving into professional science outreach. He co-authored “The Ancestor’s Tale” book (2016) with Richard Dawkins and has presented on numerous television and radio science shows. Yan now works for the Big Data Institute in Oxford on computational techniques for handling large genetic datasets. Yan Wong has worked closely with Rosindell on the OneZoom project since 2014, including the application of OneZoom as part of One Tree, One Planet.

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