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Kat Jones, our public affairs manager, writes about her search for an artist to work on a three year project at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond.
Like many staff at RSPB, I come from a science background. My PhD was with lesser black-backed gulls, and their breeding ecology. However in the 20 years since I started my PhD, my interest in how we involve and engage people with the natural world and create the conservationists of tomorrow has led me into working in collaboration with artists. Over the past few years, in partnership with the Scottish Graduate School of the Arts and Humanities (SGSAH), we have hosted graduate student artists’ residences at some of our nature reserves. These have been three month projects, usually spread over six months, or a year of the student’s PhD and have created some fantastic outputs including film poems, digital art and sound installations (see links at the bottom of the page for more information).
Sound artist Luca Nasciuti at Inversnaid
I am now really excited to be taking the next step with SGSAH and collaborating with academics from the University of Glasgow's Schools of Geographical and Earth Sciences, and Interdisciplinary Studies, to host a three and a half year-long PhD studentship. Dr Emma Cardwell of University of Glasgow, and her colleagues, Hayden Lorimer and David Borthwick, will provide the academic rigour and supervision. My role will be to provide the information and support from RSPB’s side. The studentship project will have the dual advantages of creating artwork at Loch Lomond which will benefit visitors to the reserve as well as fostering learning which will impact on our network of 80 reserves in Scotland and 200 UK-wide.
We have just advertised the role and are seeking the right person to look at the role of art in engaging people with nature through creating site based work at one of RSPB’s most iconic nature reserves.
The name of the PhD project is” Close Encounters: Art, Presence and Environmental Management at Loch Lomond, Scotland” and we are hoping that this PhD can help us explore how we can inspire people to care, to get involved, and to begin a life-long passion for nature through experience of our reserves.
Although nature has always been the main event on RSPB reserves, we use ‘interpretation’ of relevant scientific understanding to create understanding and meaning for visitors. Since our mission is winning hearts and creating real connection and understanding with our audiences, we hope that this project will help us see where the arts can help make those meaningful connections between our reserves and people: those new to us, and long-time supporters and nature experts.
Emma Cardwell, my collaborator, is as excited as me about the project “The crossover between art, science and environment has never been more vibrant than it is now, and we’re really excited to be working with RSPB to give a student the chance to not only explore this academically, but create or curate some actual place-based art in the Loch Lomond reserve. This is going to be a fantastic PhD, with real potential for creativity and impact for nature conservation.”
We’re seeking someone with experience as a practising artist or curator, and with the relevant academic qualifications to take part in the project, which could engage with a range of media, from sculpture to sound to poetry. The full specification is here (link). This project is part of a Doctoral Training Partnership funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The candidate with the best fit for the project will go forward to a competitive final selection phase organised by Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities. If approved, the PhD candidate will begin studies in October 2019.
For full details about the project, and how to apply, please download the PDF file below.
Links to previous SGSAH artists in residence work:
Filmpoems by Roseanne Watt
Susannah Ramsay created a film poem and a projection of her poem in the woodland at the reserve at dusk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOf1tfpYFUA
The woodland dusk walk and film experience is reviewed here.
This is a blog by Luca Nasciuti, the sound artist who worked with us at Inversnaid and Glasgow
And the digital artist Catherine M. Weir who worked at Mersehead has documented her work here
Forth Reserve Warden, Allison Leonard, gives a final update on the Skinflats Managed Realignment Project.
After years of discussion, months of planning and weeks of digger work, on Wednesday 3rd October, the seawall at RSPB Skinflats reserve was finally breached and the realignment project was completed.
The majority of the project team were on hand to witness the final few dumper loads of material being removed and used elsewhere on site.
One of the diggers working no removing the seawall to create the 25m breach (photo credit: David Palmar)
While it was all very exciting to see the breach we actually had to wait two days until we saw any water enter the site via the new breach because the high tides were so low that week, which was great for carrying out work on the saltmarsh it did mean it was all a little bit of anti-climax. We are patient though and, finally, on Friday 5th October, the tides were just high enough to enter the site but only just!
The almost complete seawall breach (photo credit: J Leonard)
However, the tides the following week did not disappoint with several 6m+ tides, which is about as high as the tide gets in the Forth, so again, we gathered to watch as the water gently flowed on to site (honestly, we do actually do some work occasionally). It was fantastic to watch as our new lagoon was quickly filled and our new shingle topped island (huge thanks to our volunteers for their help with that!) became an island. It was clear that the birds were enjoying the waters as much as were with flocks of gulls, black tailed godwits and even lapwings eyeing up the site. Unfortunately both of the time lapse cameras we had out on site missed all of the action so we are unable to share that first inundation with you but photos taken a few days later from above show how amazing the site looks.
The newly flooded Skinflats Managed Realignment, taken shortly before a 6.2m tide (photo credit: J Leonard)
The site is still quite muddy and raw looking as it will take a bit of time for everything to settle down but the muddy patches are starting to green up a little already and it wont be long before we start to see changes in the vegetation or some new channels beginning to form.
It has been a massive team effort to complete this project and we are all very much looking forward to watching the site develop in the next few years.
You can read the previous blogs here:
Skinflats managed retreat gets underway
It's getting muddy out there!
We're getting there
The (hopefully!) penultimate update on the Skinflats Managed Retreat Project
Well, we are now at the end of the third week of the work and things are really starting to take shape.
The contractors have spent quite a few days building up the southern embankment to the required height, adding material in thin layers and ensuring each layer is well compacted before adding the next.
The site of the headwall after removal (Photo credit: Y Boles)
The old concrete headwall associated with the regulated tidal exchange has been removed, the pipe filled and the area re-profiled. The next step here is to install some brushwood revetment which will help to stabilise the bank and allow saltmarsh to develop.
The new channels on either side of the seawall (Photo credit: J Leonard)
Of course the final step is to cut the channels on either side of the seawall in preparation for the breach which will happen at some point next week. Fingers crossed!