Re-valuing Pollinators through Arts and Science Collaboration


Professor Andrea Liggins (photographic artist, Honorary Research Fellow and retired Dean of Art and Design at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David) and Professor Mike Christie (Head of Aberystwyth University’s School of Management and Business), have recently attained £36k funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for a pioneering project that will combine Art with Science to explore new insights into perceptions of the value of honeybees and other wild pollinators and how this new knowledge might best be used to influence conservation policy decisions.

 The ‘Cross-pollination’ project will address these issues through the development of a collaborative network that brings together prestige and award-winning artists and scientists from the UK, Ireland and the U.S.A., along with key stakeholders including Dr Natasha De Vere (National Botanic Garden of Wales (NGBW)), Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust  and Buglife.

Pollinators are facing huge declines across the world due to habitat destruction, pests, diseases, intensification of farming, biodiversity loss and climate change. There is evidence to suggest that the ways in which pollinators are perceived and valued has significant implications for their conservation.

The Cross-pollination project will provide an opportunity for experts from different disciplines to share ideas, discuss values, and develop strategies for inter-disciplinary research and dissemination, with a particular focus on working collaboratively to produce exhibitions of artwork that challenge perceptions, that help demonstrate the benefits that pollinators provide and highlight the decline in pollinator populations.

Professor Liggins said: “By drawing on existing networks, the Cross-pollination project will bring together key scientists, artists and stakeholders to participate in a series of exploratory arts workshops that will explore theories of aesthetics, sensory perception, differences in perspectives and language, and investigate possible creative interactions and partnerships”.

“People often think of scientists and artists as being at opposite ends of the spectrum in their work life, even though they may share the same interests in music, theatre and sports for example. It is true that they can work in very different ways and see the world differently, and even use a different language when talking about their work. However, they share a lot of similarities; they are usually passionate about what they do, and do not usually work a 9 to 5 day, but their work can occupy their time, and their thoughts, day and night. Often, for both scientists and artists, their work is a leap into the unknown, and both groups ask the question: ‘What if?’”

Andrea has collaborated with Natasha De Vere (NBGW) on the Barcode Wales project and other UK projects, exhibiting the photography in China and India and at the National Eisteddfod, Llanelli in 2014.

 “Artists and scientists have different training and this affects their views of the world. Working with artists helps me see the work from alternative perspectives, helping me come up with new ideas and think more creatively” explains Dr Natasha de Vere.

Prof Mike Christie said: “Over the past 20 years I have been involved in many research projects that have utilised natural science and economic methods to provide evidence to justify and target nature conservation policies. What is novel and exciting about the Cross-pollination project is that we will highlight how art can be used to demonstrate a multitude of ways in which people value nature and explore how this new evidence might best feed into the design of nature conservation policies”.

It is envisaged that around 10 pieces of art will be generated as part of this project and that they will be on display next year at NBGW, Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm, the Heart of Wales Railway line, as well as in China 

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