Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Ocean Acidification and Marine Worlds in the Polar Ocean (Fine Brendtner)

CO2 bubbling up from the ocean floor

Looking to the material encounters and sensory relationships formed between marine life, acidifying waters, natural scientists and artists, this project engages ocean acidification from a multidisiplinary angle. Ocean Acidification is one of our most important yet hardly visible environmental issues to date. Decades of immense carbon absorption have slowly changed the biochemical makeup of the world's ocean. Its waters are turning acid, leaving small and vital organisms such as corals and plankton vulnerable to vanish under pressure of their changing environment (IPCC 2019).

Limacina helicina or sea butterfly (photo by Alexander Semenov).

Zooplankton are now becoming scientific vectors and a type of “ambassador species” forecasting oceanic futures in dissolve. Pteropods, also known as limacina helicina or sea butterfly, are one such example. This charismatic marine animal forms an extremely thin shell from the calcium in surrounding waters. Studies predict that the sea snail's shell will disappear during this century due to ocean acidification (Lischka et al. 2011). In studying the material disruption and entanglement of the human carbon cycle with these smallest life forms in the depths of the ocean, this research turns its attention to the states of the oceanic for tracing imperiled environmental futures.

Arctic waters are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification due to the higher capacity of cold waters to absorb CO2. For this research I will combine anthropological methodology with natural science observations during trips to the Arctic and Antarctic Ocean in collaboration with marine scientists and visual artists. The project is a continuation of my previous research on subaquatic scientific imaging in collaboration with the Icelandic Marine and Freshwater Research Institute during ship-based fieldwork.


  • Lischka, Silke, Büdenbender, Jan, Boxhammer, Tim and Riebesell, Ulf. 2011. Impact of ocean acidification and elevated temperatures on early juveniles of the polar shelled pteropod Limacina helicina: mortality, shell degradation, and shell growth. Biogeosciences, 8. pp. 919-932.
  • IPCC. (2019). IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. Geneva:        IPCC.