The Curious World of Seaweed

Marine algae are the supreme eco-engineers of life: they oxygenate the waters, create habitat for countless other organisms, and form the base of a food chain that keeps our planet unique in the universe as we know it. In this beautiful volume Josie Iselin explores both the artistic and the biological presence of sixteen seaweeds and kelps that live in the thin region where the Pacific Ocean converges with the North American continent—a place of incomparable richness. Each species receives a detailed description of its structure, its ecological importance, and humans’ scientific inquiry into it, told in scientifically illuminating yet deeply reverent and inspired prose. Throughout the writings are historical botanical illustrations and Iselin’s signature, Marimekko-like portraits of each specimen that reveal their vibrant colors—whether rosy, “olivaceous,” or grass-green—and whimsical shapes. Iselin posits that we can learn not only about the seaweeds but also from them: their resilience, their resourcefulness, their poetry and magic.

Advance Praise

“Who knew seaweed portraiture could probe the deepest mysteries of existence? Josie Iselin’s wonderful new book explores a world just below the surface. One wonder is that seaweed performs such a vital role in the ecosystem, literally helping power life on Earth. Another wonder is its shape-shifting colors and crazy symmetries, which Iselin’s singular photography pops to life. Her text puts seaweed in a historical framework full of surprising stories. The result is an adventure through art, science, and pure pleasure.”—Mary Ellen Hannibal, author of Citizen Scientist

About the Author

Josie IselinJosie Iselin is author of eight books that focus on those forms in nature we find at hand—in particular, at the beach. She holds a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard and an MFA from San Francisco State University. For over twenty years Josie has used her flatbed scanner and computer to generate imagery. She is still captivated by the fluidity with which this technique allows her to render and design with three-dimensional objects. Her writing and art focused on seaweeds, kelp, and sea otter put her on the forefront of ocean activism, collaborating with scientists and groups working to preserve the kelp forests of our Pacific Coast. As a fine artist, Josie exhibits large-scale prints at select galleries and museums, and she has designed a line of luxury scarves and shower curtains. She hopes that celebrating the ordinary wonders we find at the beach will bring thoughtfulness and stewardship to this extraordinary place of discovery. Visit her website at www.josieiselin.com. Photo credit: Anne Hamersky