Released March 20th, “Water Lives…” is a science communication animation designed to draw attention to the important (yet largely invisible) life that underpins and sustains our rivers and lakes. Produced by Paul Jepson and Rob St.John at the School of Geography and the Environment for BioFresh – a European Union project on freshwater biodiversity – the animation brings artists and scientists together to collaborate and communicate the concept that freshwater is more than an inert resource: instead a living, dynamic system inhabited by beautiful, important organisms largely unseen by the naked eye. “Water Lives…” invites viewers to view our freshwaters in new ways, value the range of services they provide and discuss how they should be managed.
The curious and otherworldly physical forms of freshwater organisms such as diatoms provides abundant artistic inspiration. “Water Lives…” is a six minute piece animated by Scottish artist Adam Proctor. It is sound-tracked by a specially composed piece of music by Tommy Perman from Scottish, BAFTA award winning arts collective FOUND which samples a series of haiku about freshwater ecosystems written by environmental poet John Barlow. The content of both the animation and haiku was informed by collaborations between the artists and BioFresh freshwater scientists Rick Battarbee from University College London and Ana Filipa Filipe from the University of Barcelona, alongside Alistair Seddon from the University of Oxford Zoology department.
This novel, cross-disciplinary team have produced a nuanced, multi-layered piece that not only contains sound, robust scientific information, but that is also beautiful, engaging and playful. It is a work that can be viewed entirely on its artistic merits, from which the viewer could take away a range of different information – from something as simple as “Freshwaters are more interesting than I thought” to something as intricate as “How can policy makers manage this complex entanglement of life?” – and a whole spectrum in between. “Water Lives…” is a valuable education and communication tool: it invites viewers to value the importance and beauty of freshwater ecosystems and engage with how they should be managed. It also suggests the productive possibilities created by collaborations between scientists and creative artists for opening up new, creative spaces for how we contemplate, value and plan to manage our environment. We hope that you enjoy it.
The BioFresh project – funded by the European Union’s Framework 7 programme – is currently assembling dispersed information on freshwater biodiversity into a network accessible through an online portal to allow better analysis of the distribution, status and trends of global freshwater ecosystems. This work will support more effective environmental policy formation and raise awareness of the importance and value of freshwaters ecosystems.