360-degree film to explore life beneath the waves at Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

Thursday 7, April 2011


360-degree film to explore life beneath the waves at Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition


Visitors to this year’s Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition are in for a treat as an innovative 360-degree immersive film (trailer available) narrated by Sir David Attenborough will allow them to explore the world of marine plankton. Created by scientist Dr Richard Kirby, the 15-minute film will be showing at the exhibition from 5th July – 10th July 2011.


The exhibit, entitled Ocean Drifters, will show these microscopic creatures at magnifications never before seen and transport viewers to their world under the seas without even getting wet.  Visitors will learn how marine plankton have shaped life on Earth and continue to influence our lives in ways most people could not imagine. For example, did you know that their dead remains helped create England’s newest National Park and the white cliffs of Dover?


Dr Kirby is a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth’s School of Marine Science and Engineering and has designed the dome-shaped exhibit in combination with the University’s Center for Innovation for the Creative and Cultural Industries. Once visitors have viewed the film they will have an  opportunity to use microscopes to study plankton collected from seas around the world and learn how changing sea temperatures in the water just off our coasts have brought about alterations in the plankton that signal changes in the ecosystem from the seabed to the sea surface.


Dr Kirby takes the amazing images plankton seen in the film to engage the public with his science. He says:


“The adaptations shown by the plankton to their life just below the ocean surface create an amazing and beautiful variety of forms that can really captivate imaginations. Once people have seen the images they naturally want to know more about them, and then you can talk about the science.


Having Sir David Attenborough on board to narrate the film is particularly exciting as not only will visitors be mesmerized by these astonishing images but they will have the story of plankton told to them by one of wildlife programming’s most iconic voices.”


Dr Kirby and his colleagues recently published research showing how a 1˚C rise in the temperature of the North Sea since the mid-1980s has resulted in a reorganization of the plankton food web that affects the ecosystem all the way up to the cod and flatfish that support rich commercial fisheries. Without studies of the plankton, the full scope of the changes, which could foreshadow similar changes in waters around the world, would have gone relatively unnoticed.


The Summer Science Exhibition is the highlight of the Royal Society’s year and showcases the most exciting cutting-edge science and technology research. It provides a unique opportunity for members of the public to interact with scientists and ask them questions about their work. There will be more than 20 exhibits bringing to life topics including invisibility, the use of nanotechnology to create solar fuel, trauma surgery and spotting weapons using x-ray machines.



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