One Earth, One Future
Using Satellite Images to Inspire Biodiversity Artwork
By Simon Jackson, Collections and Learning Curator
21st century space technology allows us to study the Earth’s surface in incredible detail and to see how its complex environments are changing. It can inspire art and create a sense of ‘environmental stewardship’ or care for the environment.
Shortly before Christmas, I teamed up with fellow Collections and Learning Curator, Eleanor Root and, visual artist, Lily Hunter Green, to work with nine young people, aged nine to twelve from Suffolk Family Carers. It was wonderful to be able to welcome Suffolk’s Young Carers to the museum to learn about biodiversity, the ‘richness’ of life on Earth, through creative workshops inspired by satellite images. Young Carers can experience challenges, so opportunities such as this provide a very well-earnt break and a chance for learning, enjoyment and inspiration.
One Earth, One Future, Workshop 1; the Suffolk Family Carers young people explore the Ipswich Museum’s Victorian Natural History Gallery to understand the concept of species richness, a measure of biodiversity.
The project brought on Lily Hunter Green, an artist who is also an expert in bee pollination. She has been accepted onto a PhD studying honeybees and is the Artist-in-Residence in the Maori Lab, the Department of Biochemistry at Cambridge. And so the project would have a strong focus on bees and pollination. Why bees? Well, pollinators such as bees are vital for maintaining healthy ecosystems and for global food security; bee-pollinated crops contribute to approximately one third of total human food1. Therefore, it is of great concern to us that the number of bee species is declining globally2 because of factors including climate change, invasive species and denser agriculture3.
‘BEE COMPOSED’ (Lily Hunter Green 2014): two unused pianos were converted into an interactive working beehive installation to explore new ways of raising awareness of declining bee populations. Reproduced with permission of Lily Hunter Green.
Before we homed in on bees, we took our eager group on a virtual “biodiversity tour” of the world. Using Google Earth, we whizzed over to the Amazon rainforest in South America, our large screen filling up with green. We journeyed up the Amazon River, covering several miles in a matter of seconds. Although no animals were visible, the group couldn’t help but wonder what was lurking under the dense canopy! Although forest is sadly disappearing at an alarming rate, it still inspires a sense of wonder.
We then bounced back to the countryside of Suffolk, viewing what looked like an enormous, patchwork quilt. Lily took us through some of the ideal environments for helping bees to survive. We learnt that we can have both agricultural areas to grow our food, and enough areas for bees to forage from, drink from and ‘wildlife corridors’ to connect their populations.
After travelling many thousand miles, which is enough to make anyone giddy, the group began drawing their own ideal bee habitats, scribbling away enthusiastically with pencils and crayons – our education room was a beehive in itself!
One Earth, One Future, Workshop 1: Suffolk Family Carers young people start creating their own perfect habitats for bees, inspired by viewing different countryside landscapes with satellite images.
In the second session, the group went on to construct a 3D artwork. Coloured carpet tiles built up on the floor, their positions dancing around as the young people experimented: where do we want our hedgerows – perhaps down the middle? Do we really want our lake there? Amazingly, some rather unusual creations appeared, such as an iceberg with penguins, and even a desert area – with giraffes! Okay, so these are not ideal bee habitats… but it gave the young people a chance to explore different habitats and their animals.
One Earth, One Future, Workshop 2: Suffolk Family Carers young people start creating a 3D landscape from materials including carpet tiles and learning about how to create the most biodiverse environments for bees.
Lily then amazed us all as she took control of a drone, which buzzed like an oversized bee over our heads, snapping photographs of the landscape below. The images allowed us to imagine what satellite images could produce from such a scene.
One Earth, One Future, Workshop 2: image of Suffolk Family Carers group work of their ideal biodiverse bee habitats, recorded from drone photography by artist, Lily Hunter Green. Reproduced with permission of Lily Hunter Green. To view the 3D model in more detail click here.
The group was then encouraged to make their own personal, environmental pledges. These included: eating less meat, walking to school, and recycling.
In summary, the group had great fun exploring Earth. By being able to see our home planet so easily from space, we can appreciate that we all share the same planet; something we may forget every day. All of our actions and choices affect our home planet and our fellow organisms. They also learnt what they could achieve by working together, creating biodiverse landscapes, which would allow both agriculture and wildlife to flourish; indeed, perhaps a lesson for us all…
Ipswich Museum and project staff would like to thank the Earth and Space Foundation who generously provided funds in 2021 through the annual Earth and Space Exploration Awards.
- Khalifa, S. A., Elshafiey, E. H., Shetaia, A. A., El-Wahed, A. A. A., Algethami, A. F., Musharraf, S. G., … & El-Seedi, H. R. (2021). Overview of bee pollination and its economic value for crop production. Insects, 12(8), 688.
- Zattara, E. E., & Aizen, M. A. (2019). Worldwide occurrence records reflect a global decline in bee species richness. Available at SSRN 3669390.
- Ollerton, J. (2021) Pollinators and Pollination: Nature and Society. Pelagic Publishing Ltd.