Visualizing the Growth Rates of Algae

For Reddit’s r/dataisbeautiful DataViz Battle for January, the challenge was to visualize the growth rates of algae. The data set we received was a table from AQUATEXT, which has the growth rates for different types of marine algae at different light intensities and temperatures.

I struggled with this data because I didn’t find a strong story that could be told. Out of the other entries in the competition, I didn’t like the examples of line charts because the measured temperatures aren’t equally spaced, so I felt like using any type of line graph would be misleading. I tried using bar graphs, but because I did not want to summarize with averages or sums, it felt like the only way I could accurately represent the data was with small multiples – and at that point with so many types of algae it was difficult to see any patterns.

To tell some sort of story, I did some Googling-research to find out what type of algae each species would fall under. I got 3 main types of algae: Diatoms, green algae, and golden algae in this data set. Eventually, I gave up and settled with these box-and-whisker plots so I could show each point.


I did not see any evidence that light intensity had an affect on algae growth, but decided to include it as the detail color anyway. It appears that lower temperature has a negative affect on growth for golden algae, and that green algae has higher average growth rates than diatoms. It’s a little bit of a story – I’m just ready to move onto the next challenge.

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