Veronica Relano's mural

Sea Around Us alumna unveils mural project at UBC

Veronica Relano's mural

While pursuing her PhD studies with Sea Around Us, Veronica Relano-Ecija, engaged in an artistic project to raise awareness about climate change and sea-level rise.

On May 22, 2024. International Day for Biological Diversity, the mural that resulted from that project will be officially presented, with the Sea Around Us PI, Dr. Daniel Pauly, offering a keynote address and participating artists Ana Julia León and Josianne Assignon sharing details behind the creation of the art piece.

The mural is located on the ground floor of the Student Nest building, on the University of British Columbia Vancouver campus. It depicts the area of the campus by the Irving K. Barber Library submerged underwater.

One of the mural’s key features is that the height of the waterline is 1.27m off the ground, which is proportional to the projected sea-level increase at the nearby Wreck Beach in 2100.

The presentation event will include the screening of Relano’s documentary El Espíritu de Nuestro Mar / The Spirit of Our Sea featuring Ana Julia León, José Reyeros and Aoki Yamada Cadena, and a Q&A session.

In preparation for the occasion, Relano shared additional information as to how the project came to be and what inspired her to make it happen.

What inspired you to create this mural?

The idea behind the mural was to make high-level discussions on climate change accessible to everyone. By bringing to light these important topics, we aim to foster collective reflection and promote behavioural changes.

This mural is also part of a broader initiative put forward by the NGO Onewater and my UN Ocean Decade Project SOS Somos OceanoS – We Are Oceans to contribute to an inclusive social and economic transition, aligning with some of the themes presented at COP27.

What was the process of creating the mural like?

Initially, the idea was to depict sea levels under different climate change scenarios. It was a simple yet impressive mural showing the real height of the sea level over time and how some communities, islands, and cities might be impacted. However, the concept evolved and now the mural features a significant UBC building half submerged and half above water. This shift highlights the idea that even seemingly indestructible buildings can be vulnerable to nature’s power. The mural also shows coastal and marine flora and fauna that could make UBC their new home, emphasizing the need to view this transformation with an open mind.

The Sea Around Us PI, Dr. Daniel Pauly, and former PhD student, Dr. Veronica Relano.

The Sea Around Us PI, Dr. Daniel Pauly, and former PhD student, Dr. Veronica Relano.

Two artists were invited to design and paint the mural with selected volunteers. The process was long, spanning two years, and it evolved through many different drafts, concepts and messages until it became what it is now. Initially, I envisioned a very simple line mural but with Ana Julia’s and Josi’s input, the ideas evolved in a very organic way leading to the final design.

It was a lengthy process also because I had to secure funding – which we got from UBC’s Student Environment Centre and the Sustainability Hub – and coordinate with the architectural department at UBC. When I finished my PhD and left Vancouver, Ana Julia took over to see the project through to completion.

Are there any ‘hidden’ elements in the mural that people should try to find or figure out?

Yes, there are several ‘hidden’ elements that we encourage people to discover. One of the key aspects is identifying the different species depicted in the mural and understanding their importance to British Columbia.

To enhance this experience, we are developing a website where visitors can interact with each element of the mural and learn more about it. So, stay tuned for more details and be ready to explore the fascinating stories behind these elements.

Why was it important to create this mural at UBC?

Creating this mural at UBC was important to express our science, our search for answers, our thoughts and our concerns in a way that could reach a broader audience than scientific articles alone can. Using visual art, we aim to engage people who might not typically interact with scientific literature, thereby fostering a deeper understanding and connection to the issues we are addressing.

What is the most rewarding part of creating this mural?

For me, the most rewarding part is seeing the mural finalized and knowing that people will enjoy and reflect on it. It’s incredibly fulfilling to think about how we can connect with individuals who might just be passing by and spark their curiosity and contemplation. This connection is significant because it extends the reach of our message beyond the scientific community.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Visit the website where we will provide more info about similar projects and the interactive website for this mural. Also, if someone is interested in developing a similar initiative with me, please get in touch: veronica[at]

The mural unveiling event is free but registration is required.