Scarf sowing data about the decreasing number of days when you can ice fish on Lake Champlain. Design by Dr. Michale Glennon.

Ice Fishing Blues scarf – the blue circles show winters where temperatures got above 25 degrees, making it difficult to ice fish. Design by Dr. Michale Glennon. Find it on Ravelry.

It’s not easy to find ways to share scientific data with other people. As a researcher, you are diving deep into many interconnected ideas and thoughts as you do your work. It becomes an intimate part of you, the flow and narrative of a story. You know it so well that sometimes it is difficult to remember that not everyone is as familiar with your data and its story as you are. When it comes time to talk about your research with the people who need to hear it, the story that you tell might not be one that they can understand. Enter the Wool and Water Project and creative scientist artists!

The Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College in Paul Smiths, NY developed a fun way to share data with people who are not scientists. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and all the work of protecting water quality in the Champlain Basin, fiber artists of all kinds built water data into their projects. The result is a visual art festival of wearable and hangable water data. I bet you never thought Champlain ice cover data could be beautiful. A look at the ‘Champlain Ice Scarf could change your mind!

A handmade scarf that translates aquatic science data into art. Photo: Dr. Michale Glennon

The Plankton Scarf, from the Wool and Water Project of the Adirondack Watershed Institute, Paul Smith’s College. This scarf was designed by Dr. Michale Glennon. Find it on Ravelry.

What is eye-catching about many of these projects is their irregularity. Patterns are clearly visible, but they are not the regular patterns common to handmade projects. In the scarf ‘Ice Fishing Blues‘, the blue circles representing warmer winters, are heaviest at one end of the scarf. There is not a clear pattern, but there is a trend. People seeing that scarf might ask about the unusual pattern and find themselves learning about climate change and winter ice. If that happens every time the scarf is worn, the story spreads and more people learn about our missing winter ice covers.

I was excited to see that data from a paper on Lake Champlain plankton, which I co-authored, became the ‘Plankton Scarf‘ (photo on the right). Talk about a story within a story!

Take a look at all the lovely fiber works on the Wool and Water Project website, then expand your data art experience! Below you’ll find links to other exciting ways that scientists, artists, and scientist/artists are telling the stories to be found in the realm of scientific data. They may be visual or acoustic. The links below explore data studies about increasingly hot days to disappearing insects. Maybe you’ll find one that you want to share for both its beauty and the important story it tells.

Explore more data art: