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The Search for Pattern: Ronald Eastman and Eve Andrée Laramée in Conversation

Did you know leaves fold up at night, and possibly dream? I learned about this and other captivating scientific discoveries during Ronald Eastman’s and Eve Andrée Laramée’s presentations of their respective work projects at the Nov. 18th Catalyst Conversations event.

As a scientist studying geographic data, Eastman discussed his work utilizing tools such as a Geographic Information System (GIS ) and Earth trends modeler to look at satellite image data of the earth to understand what is occurring in the oceans and throughout the continents; essentially a futuristic method to see exactly what  it is the Earth is up to these days. Zooming his satellite map to focus on the Northeast area, it was interesting to learn about the seemingly random connection between ocean warming near the Canary Islands, and its effect on agriculture in the state of Massachusetts. Describing his process for identifying micro-trends lying beneath global warming effects, he noted, “It is like peeling an onion. We search, remove, search, remove—I search for pattern to understand causality.”

Presenting her perspective in science and its relationship to art, Laramée shared that her work with science is at times, like a novelist—it can be “fictionally-based…as artists are more liberated in terms of being able to use error in their work.” Laramée shared anecdotes from her collaboration with scientists to understand the environmental and health effects of atomic legacy sites. She engaged the audience in her effort to raise awareness of invisible contamination through visualization and how it informs her work as an artist.

As the open dialogue began, a question was posed to both Eastman and Laramée on their individual perspectives as both artist and scientist in relation to societal issues.  Laramée perceives her work related to environmental issues as “public service announcements,” as she seeks out opportunities where she is not just speaking to the artist audience. Recounting a significant debate amongst his colleagues how they would present a particular finding that shows more than half of the earth’s agricultural land is experiencing an increase in productivity, which, Eastman mused, “is a strange concept, why would the Earth be greening?” He expressed he felt strongly they had to report it exactly as it is even if the research may be referenced in a political debate about climate change. Each presentation seemed to inspire attendees to ponder larger questions related to global warming and invisible contamination, yet also phenomena one may not otherwise.

I certainly will now be studying my singular orchid plant’s leaves for any sign of dreaming.

 Guest Blogger: Neila Columbo, Independent journalist