Artistic side of Borders aquatic life

THE beauty of science is highlighted in an exhibition at Harestanes.

The collaboration between award-winning Selkirk artist Liz Douglas and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), is described as “science meets art” and focuses on tiny diatoms (pictured, top of page) single-cell phytoplankton from SNH’s Whitlaw Mosses National Nature Reserve, near Selkirk.

Ms Douglas said: “The beauty and diversity of the Whitlaw diatoms is amazing. These building blocks of the food chain come in all shapes. It’s like the deep ocean in miniature.”

The artist captured images of the creatures and worked with Tweedbank Primary School, Selkirk High and Galashiels Academy, to produce artworks.

The results, with diatom research, animation, banners, and some of the structures made during the education projects, form the show at Harestanes.

Ms Douglas said: “My plan was not only to record the Whitlaw diatoms scientifically but also to use them as a jumping-off point to fire the imagination, both my own and of local schoolchildren.”

SNH staff helped clean the water to allow a professor at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to identify the images after the tiny creatures in the water were put through a scanning microscope.

Local SNH officer responsible for the work, Sarah Eno, said: “This exciting project goes to show that science and art are both great ways of looking at nationally important sites like our reserve at Whitlaw Mosses.

“Diatoms take nutrients straight from the water and are eaten by waterfleas and other bigger creatures. Their numbers go in cycles depending on nutrients in the water, daylight levels and temperature and so can be good indicators of the health of the pools on the site. The identification of the diatoms on the reserve will be useful to SNH for future management.”

Whitlaw Mosses covering 20ha (49 acres), was made a national nature reserve in 1974. The site has 250 species of fly, 160 species of beetles and 84 species of butterflies and moths and is an unusual northerly outpost of fen habitat with nationally scare plants such as coral root orchid, holy grass and narrow small reed.

The exhibition runs at Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre, Ancrum, until 8 May.