One Cubic Foot of Life
Lap-sized habitats, or what Central Park gardens and Polynesian reefs have in common.
By Maria Popova
UPDATE: The project is now a book, featuring a foreword by E. O. Wilson.
Ask a scientist, and she’ll tell you size is absolute. Ask an artist, and he’ll prove it’s relative. That’s exactly what photographer David Liittschwager did in his One Cubic Foot project, exploring how much of different ecosystems can fit within a single cubic foot of space. (Can you tell we’re on a biodiversity roll this week?)
Armed with a 12-inch cube, a green metal frame, and a team of assistants and biologists, Liittschwager set out to probe five sharply different environments — water and land, from New York’s temperate Central Park to a tropical forest in Costa Rica — putting down the cube in each, then waiting patiently, counting and photographing all the creatures that lived or crossed that space, down to those about a millimeter in size.
The endeavor was just as laborious as it sounds — each habitat took about three weeks to catalog, and a total of over 1000 organisms were photographed.
It was like finding little gems.” ~ David Liittschwager
The project is highly reminiscent of a WWF campaign we featured last year, putting a global spin on the concept of ecological microcosms.
Besides the original concept and impressive amount of work that went into it, the One Cubic Foot project bespeaks the incredible richness of our planet — and the regrettable gray deadness of our man-made concrete jungles: Try setting the green cube in the middle of an LA expressway or a New York City sidewalk.
So next time you venture out into the non-grey world, consider the fascinating and intricate homes and habitats framed by your even footstep.
Published January 26, 2010