SciQuilt – Project Drawdown

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July 27, 2019 by Dr. G

Drawdown is the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and then start to steadily decline, ultimately reversing global warming. — from Project Drawdown website

In Summer 2019, I was extremely fortunate to be able to serve as a faculty mentor to one of the 55 undergraduate student researchers selected to be a part of the Project Drawdown REU at Penn State University (my Drawdown Scholar is a rising sophomore at Penn State Brandywine, a food science major that worked on a project to generated Pennsylvania-themed podcasts addressing efforts in the state to reverse global warming).

During the first day of Drawdown orientation, each student and faculty/staff in the room (and on Zoom) were asked to introduce themselves and reveal a “superpower” they have, or unusual skill/experience. I shared that I crochet science data and quilt science stories. The reaction from the students in the room was exciting for me to hear, and it inspired me to think of my own project during this Project Drawdown summer. I decided to create a quilt that highlights the eight sectors (the broad categories that solutions are grouped in to, where each solution reduces greenhouse gases by avoiding emissions and/or by sequestering carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere).

The eight sectors are represented by the fabrics in this slideshow:

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Links to additional information about these sectors on the Project Drawdown website:

Buildings and Cities, Electricity Generation, Food, Land Use, Materials and Waste, Ocean, Transportation, Women and Girls

For the quilt, I decided to use a Sudoku pattern from McCall’s QuickQuilts Magazine (November 2006). I used the Penn State Drawdown REU logo and created a fabric with the image at The other fabrics were purchased at Jo-Ann’s and online at Spoonflower.


I felt the Sudoku pattern was appropriate, with Sudoku known as a challenging puzzle. It is one where multiple options must be explored to reach a solution, but a solution can be achieved. Each of these sectors are contained in the solution but relate to the other sectors in different ways within each of the nine blocks (meaning, are in a different position and may be more closely related/adjacent to each other than in the other blocks).

The pattern of each fabric matches each sector. The blue and white for the borders are Penn State colors. Both fabrics have a “cracked” pattern. The outer white fabric has a lighter color for the cracking, making it harder to see and what represents to me the closer we are coming to solutions and healing the planet. How are we reaching those solutions? Through the efforts of the 55 Drawdown Scholars that completed their research at Penn State this summer. The students are getting us closer to solving the puzzle! This is why the students have signed around the border of the quilt.


The backing fabric is a global print, representing that global warming is a global challenge and takes a global effort to reach drawdown.


This is my story of Drawdown – a challenge that has a solution, but we may need to spend some time and think about different ways and combinations to approach the solution before reaching it.


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But I have to share one more post from the #OSM20 fieldtrip to @birchaquarium and @scripps_ocean. And I don't know why this didn't click with me before I went on the trip, but Scripps Institution of Oceanography was the home of Charles Keeling (you know... the "Keeling Curve" guy). He was mentioned briefly during our time on campus, but I wanted more! So I ran over to his building to snap some photos, including photos in front of the historic markers. After visiting the Mauna Loa Laboratory back in 2014 (throwback photo included), it was great to come complete circle on the journey of CO2 measurements! #historicmarker #ACSmarker #Keeling
The last stop on the #OSM20 @scripps_ocean tour was the marine vertebrate collection. This collection focuses on fish-only, as the whale bones were given to NOAA once the Marine Mammal Protection Act went into effect. The collection was founded in 1944 and focuses mostly on eastern Pacific marine fish. We learned many cool, random fish facts! For example, this collection has over 2 million individual fish specimens that represents more than 6,000 fish species. Yet there have been 35,000 fish species identified in the world, with 500 new fish species identified each year. We saw the deepest fish ever caught - a type of snail fish from the Mariana Trench (~7,966 m deep). We also saw lots of fish in jars - a whale shark, goblin shark, viper fish, angler fish, and blob fish!
Next stop at #OSM20 @scripps_ocean was the Hubbs Research Aquarium - which is true to its name, as it clearly resembles a research laboratory! So many cool experiments are being done here by Scripps faculty. The work on the white sea bass was interesting, looking at the otoliths (inner ear bone) and what impact changing ocean pH will have on them for equilibrium and their growth? As this fish is used alot in the aquaculture industry, this work has great releavance. The sea urchin work on the white, purple (no photo), and red varieties was also fascinating. For example, how do human chemicals that wash into the ocean impact the growth and defense mechanisms of these sea creatures? In some cases, the reaction can be seen under a microscope. And the albino shark was just really cool to see...
Being a part of the #OSM20 fieldtrip allowed us special access to the @scripps_ocean Scripps Pier. This 1,000 foot-long pier increases six feet in height as you walk out from the shore, so water can filtered and be pumped back to the laboratories in the black seawater flume that runs along its length. The pier is designed to lower their smaller research vessels and divers, but it also takes important water measurements (looking down the opening where literally a bucket is lowered to collect a sample) and air measurements through weather stations and the pink pole at the end of the pier. These temperature measurements are critical for climate change mapping. What a view of sandstone faces, surfers, and oh yes - we saw dolphins, too!
Next stop on the #OSM20 fieldtrip was to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. We had a box lunch (with a box of water!) and a fascinating summary of the history of Scripps presented by Kirk Gardner. We heard about Revelle, Keeling, and more! @scripps_ocean
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