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Roanoke Valley Reef Project


Roanoke Valley Reef Project

Sarah Barb

A full house marked the opening of the “Roanoke Valley Reef” here at Roanoke College’s very own Olin Gallery. This exhibit featured the work of 250 people in the college community, including students, faculty, staff, family and friends. The project was headed up by Jan Minton, professor of mathematics, and Talia Logan, gallery director. The exhibit is a satellite of an existing reef in Los Angeles, California, called the “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” sponsored by the Institute for Figuring, a scientific learning non-profit.

The title is confusing to people who do not understand the meaning behind the project.  The reef project is an interdisciplinary work that branches between art, science, and mathematics. The reef is made up of crocheted models of coral. In 2010, Jan Minton stumbled upon the project while researching hyperbolic shapes.  Hyperbolic models look really similar to coral. She became interested and contacted Talia Logan about the project. Dean Richard Smith opened the night by introducing the leaders of the project and reminded the audience of the importance of ideas. Professor Minton then spoke about how the project was started and introduced a guest speaker, Dr. Paul Snelgrove.

Dr. Snelgrove is a biological oceanographer. He studies seafloor ecosystems at Memorial University’s Ocean Sciences Centre in Newfoundland.  He stated that even though 70 percent of the planet is ocean, humans do not know much about it. He believes even with advances in technology that some of it is “still unknowable” and that our species knows more about the surface of the moon and mars.  He mentioned that because of overfishing and other human activities there has been a loss of ocean production. The human race has managed to change the acidity of the oceans and the effects of this have not all been seen. One-third of species that reside in coral reef habitats are endangered. By 2050, all reefs will be dead if the trend continues; as coral dies it takes other species with it.  The importance of reefs is that they house much of the ocean’s diversity. Overall his message is one for the need of better environmental stewardship.

Reviews of the exhibit by the campus community have been excellent.

“This is quite an amazing feat,” said Alex Berryman, a sophomore.

“Really well done, I really noticed the quality,” Said Dr. Jeffery Spielman of the Roanoke College Mathematics Department.

“I regret not joining when she started the project,” said Heather Cook, a junior math major who did not participate.

Overall it was great example of how different disciplines can come together to educate and mesmerize.

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