Best Caption Award - Local Alien Apartments

Special Honorable Mention
Siena McKim, graduate student
Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology


There are at least a hundred species of undescribed sponges in California. Within each sponge thousands of little-known organisms exist. Tiny crustaceans within sponges can make silk homes or exhibit eusociality like honey bees. We know so little; an alien world exists in our evolving, wet backyard.

Below the kelp, a reef of colorful sponges paint the rocks with their squishy bodies. The sponges make shapes where animals can hide; their role as habitat builders for hidden biodiversity is something worth investigating. Here I depict the layers of my research through an evolving sculptural painting piece. In my work, I focus primarily on the tiny sponge associating crustaceans like amphipods and isopods, represented in the first painting. Moving from micro to macro, the depictions of crustaceans yields way to the sponges that can house them. Finally, the background to the two-piece painting is the ocean at Coal Oil Point; the environment in which these symbiosis’ exist and is always changing, just like the art piece. I invite you to experience this world with me.