What did native Brooklyn forests smell like prior to European settlement? And, how has that distinct aroma shifted given the mass migration of people and plants over the subsequent centuries? Or, in the near future, given a warming climate? This research uses plant essences—derived using distillation, smoke, and tincture techniques—from fragrant plant species to map forest succession in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. To learn more, watch a video essay on the project.

OUT OF THIN AIR, initiated by Pratt Institute faculty member Jean Brennan, received a 2020 Research Seed Grant. This project is a sensory teaching tool to talk about forest science and was developed in conversation with faculty from the University of Michigan Biostation.


Steve Bertman, Professor, Department of Chemistry, Western Michigan University; Faculty, University of Michigan Biostation
Jean Brennan, Lead Researcher, Adjunct Professor, Graduate Communications Design, Pratt Institute
Ali Chen, Research Assistant, MS ‘20, Pratt 
Ann Chang, Research Assistant, MS ‘20, Pratt
Arianna Fouse, Research Assistant, BFA ‘21, Pratt
Robert Pillsbury, Associate Professor, Department of Biology and Microbiology, University of Wisconsin; faculty, University of Michigan Biostation

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Jean Brennan