Diatom Court is a permanent site-specific ceramic installation by Xavier Cortada that is dedicated to the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research scientists who use diatoms to help us better understand South Florida’s ecosystems, global climate change, and sea level rise.

Diatoms are water-bound, single-celled microalgae encapsulated in silica. They harness the power of the sun to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and are responsible for generating at least one-fifth of the oxygen we breathe. Diatoms are also an incredibly important source of food for the entire marine food web – from tiny zooplankton to massive whales.

Outside of their crucial ecological functions, diatoms allow scientists to see into the Earth’s past as they research crucial environmental issues in the century to come. By examining the glass shells of diatoms that are preserved in sedimentary core samples, scientists can determine the past salinity of water. Each diatom species has a different salinity preference, so changes in the mixture of fresh and sea water (driven by sea level and changes in water management) can be inferred from past diatom remains.

The Diatom Court sculpture was sponsored by Pinecrest Gardens and Jessica Cortada and unveiled on Earth Day 2018.

participate at pinecrest gardens

Take 5 deep breaths as you engage in the following:

  • Remember your first experience in water
  • Reflect on the importance of the Everglades
  • Appreciate the freshwater aquifer beneath your feet
  • Acknowledge the value of Biscayne Bay
  • Think about how critical water is in your daily life

Finally, walk to the front of the diatom stand, face the three diatom jurists, raise your right hand and take the Diatom Oath:

“I pledge to do my part in keeping South Florida’s water clean.”

If you would like to possibly be included in future Diatom Court exhibitions, take a picture of yourself with your right hand raised in front of the sculpture and share it on social media with @xcortada and #DiatomCourt tags.

diatoms under the microscope