The Curious World of Seaweed

Through stunning color “portraits” of specimens and surprising stories highlighting Indigenous peoples’ and women’s connections to seaweed, The Curious World of Seaweed provides a new look at marine flora.

Seaweeds have been used by the Indigenous peoples of California and the Pacific Northwest for thousands of years. European explorers plucked specimens from our rocky shores during exploratory expeditions. In the late 1800s, women living in Pacific Grove, CA, sent fresh specimens collected around the Monterey Peninsula to colleagues at UC Berkeley. Today, seaweed is receiving major attention as kelp forests rapidly disappear from our coastline. From nori to giant kelp, from bull kelp to surfgrass and eelgrass, seaweed holds many such stories for visitors to discover through the exhibition The Curious World of Seaweed

The Curious World of Seaweed will be on view in Ecosystems (Kelp Forest) through July 21, 2024

The Curious World of Seaweed is a traveling exhibition from author and artist Josie Iselinin partnership with Exhibit Envoy. The exhibit is based on the book of the same name by Iselin (Heyday Books)

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Collage of greens, reds, and brown seaweed
Image attribution
Josie Iselin

Three Color Group by Josie Iselin. Archival digital print. Three evolutionary lineages of seaweed: the greens, the reds, and the browns. William Henry Harvey established the basic taxonomic grouping of seaweeds by color in 1852.

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Red seaweed on blue background
Image attribution
Josie Iselin

Opuntiella californica by Josie Iselin, found as drift at Point Reyes National Seashore, California, combined with a cyanotype made of the same specimen. 

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Green seaweed on white background
Image attribution
Josie Iselin

Pyropia perforata, or nori. Note the fertile edges. Pyropia is only two cells thick, so every cell on the translucent blades is able to photosynthesize and gather nutrients from the ocean waters.

Image
Collage of greens, reds, and brown seaweed
Image attribution
Josie Iselin

Three Color Group by Josie Iselin. Archival digital print. Three evolutionary lineages of seaweed: the greens, the reds, and the browns. William Henry Harvey established the basic taxonomic grouping of seaweeds by color in 1852.

Image
Red seaweed on blue background
Image attribution
Josie Iselin

Opuntiella californica by Josie Iselin, found as drift at Point Reyes National Seashore, California, combined with a cyanotype made of the same specimen. 

Image
Green seaweed on white background
Image attribution
Josie Iselin

Pyropia perforata, or nori. Note the fertile edges. Pyropia is only two cells thick, so every cell on the translucent blades is able to photosynthesize and gather nutrients from the ocean waters.

Slider info

“The seaweeds and kelps (or marine algae) are the eco-engineers and primary producers of the near-shore ocean waters. They form the building blocks of an ecology that supports innumerable other organisms—the rich biodiversity we treasure—and yet their stories are seldom told. My artwork aims to bring this hidden flora to light and celebrate their stories.”

–Josie Iselin