Before I get into the proposal itself, I want to spend a few relevant words recommending one of my favorite books to anyone interested in animals and ecology. It's called Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and zoologist Mark Carwardine. It has served as inspiration to many of my projects for the past few years. It is a short read, and is both sad and hilarious all at the same time.
For my final project I would like to continue exploring particles systems to create a data visualization animation. My goal is to find population data on endangered and recently extinct species (both animals and plants) using the Red List (if there are other good data sources out there let me know!) and visualize their decline over time using a particle to represent an individual life and frames of animation to represent time in some way. My idea is pretty rough right now, but I would like to focus on a small number of select species in various diverse biomes to create an animation that is a few minutes long, with transitions to tie each of the species together.
I think it's important to highlight critically endangered or extinct species that we might otherwise not know about. On a previous project this semester, I made a model of a Lost Shark (Carcharhinus obsolerusin) in Spark AR so people could experience one up-close - since they were declared "possibly extinct" in 2020, and we may never see them again. Sharks in general are extremely robust and adaptable, surviving on the planet for hundreds of millions of years, even persisting through mass extinction events. Because of this fact, losing this shark is ecologically significant as it is likely the first recorded extinction of a shark species. If you want to read a bit more about that project, you can read my blog post here.
A recording of the animation in Spark AR
What I learned from this project was how much I enjoyed the process of getting to know this animal, exploring what it might have looked like and how it might have moved. I got to study shark biology, and learn about their bone structure when creating the joints for its movement. I felt a little bit closer to a creature that I would never get the opportunity to see, and one that I hadn't even known about weeks prior.
While I don't think this project will make it into AR (maybe some day), I would at least like to create similar animations using particle systems. I'm not sure if I'm going to work in P5.js or Maya to manipulate my particles. I think I would have an easier time in 3D with Maya than p5.js seeing as I'm more familiar with it, but I anticipate I will have to do some scripting to get the particles to decay how I'll need them to in each frame. I also don't know if they're going to be interactive.
Visually I'm thinking of having each creature being rendering in particles that fade overtime. As the population declines, the creature becomes fuzzy, distorted and hard to see.
Something kind of like this but instead of blowing away, the particles would be suspended and gradually dying, with their own movement.
I particularly like the movement of this creature below:
or in P5.JS it could be something more like this:
So yeah, I'm still looking for some visual references and storyboarding the animation sequence itself...but this is roughly the idea.
Recommendations and ideas are very much welcome!