Salton Sea, 2018
steel, barnacles collected from the Salton Sea lake bed, copper wire, hardware, chain
70 × 40 × 40 cm
Salton Sea reflects the ecosystem of California's largest inland body of water. In May/June 2018 I conducted field research at the Salton Sea and studied its rapidly transforming ecosystem. I sought to better understand the ecological factors driving the massive fish and wildlife die-offs at the Salton Sea. The sea functions as a stopover point for millions of migratory birds searching for water in a state that has lost 90% of its original wetlands. After humans accidentally created the lake in 1905, it gradually transformed into a wildlife refuge for over 400 species of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and fish. But the runoff from the surrounding farmland has polluted the water and increased its salinity to a dangerous degree. Since the 1970s, hundreds of thousands of animals have been killed due to the toxicity of the environment. Once a tourist resort, the lake has now turned into an odorous, toxic, and hostile habitat.
Collected dead barnacles from the exposed lake bed are attached with copper wire and hardware onto a steel backbone, shaped like the branch of a fruiting date tree (farmers commonly plant date trees in the vicinity of the Salton Sea). These barnacles are used as a symbol of the rapidly evaporating Salton Sea and the dead animals that can be found all over its shores.
The government has failed to protect the Salton Sea and the thousands of wild animals that rely on its waters to migrate and nest. The lake has become a metaphor for a rich ecosystem that has transformed rapidly due to human influence on climate and environment.