Our unappreciated world – See and Inspire Art Exhibition

As part of the Festival of Creative Learning (FCL) I once again organised art to be exhibited in the Crew Building (King’s Buildings). This year I tried to really test people on being creative and came up with a slightly obscure theme- the unappreciated world.

In our busy day-to-day lives we often don’t take the time to appreciate the world around us. For this year’s art exhibition I wanted staff and students to think about this theme and send me photos, paintings and even sculptures for the event.

Prize giving

We had almost 40 submissions to the exhibition (see images above) and it was wonderful to see a great balance between the number of submissions from staff, PhD and undergraduate students. On the Thursday of FCL we had a drinks reception where people came and enjoyed the art over a glass of wine. Our guests this year were The Arty Scientists who came and talked to us about some of the cool stuff they were doing as part of FCL. One of the highlights of the afternoon was giving out prizes for favourite pieces. First place when to “The Circles of Leaf” by Andy Griffiths who is a PhD student within The School of GeoSciences. Andy has kindly provided some information about his research which inspired his submission.

Andy Griffiths

“Largely the result of serendipity, both photos were taken while conducting fieldwork along an elevation gradient in the Montane Cloud Forests of the Peruvian Andes. My research focuses on the plant group Miconieae, and aims to understand potential evolutionary and functional constraints on the elevational distribution of plant species. A number of environmental trends are associated with changes in elevation, for example, the reduction in temperature of approximately 0.5°C for every 100m of elevation gain. Such trends allow elevational gradients to be used as natural laboratories of environmental change, in which we can study how different environments influence species distributions.

Andy’s picture 1

During one of many nights spent camping out in the forest, I chanced upon the interesting effect of backlighting my leaf collections with a head torch. In the resultant photo, the light illuminates numerous tiny trichomes, a morphological adaptation, believed to reduce herbivory by impeding the movement of insects and other organisms across the leaf surface. Herbivory is thought to decrease with elevation; as such we might expect fewer adaptations such as trichomes in plant species found at higher elevations.

Andy’s picture 2

In order to measure a number leaf traits, such as the ratio of leaf area to dry weight, I used a ½ inch diameter craft hole punch to cut leaf discs of a known area – easier to dry and process in the wet and humid environment of the Montane Cloud Forest than complete leaves. Looking at a pile of discarded discs I was struck by the contrasts of form and colour – many shades of green – and took a photo. Perhaps this photo has a future on the impossible jigsaw puzzle shelf, between to the baked beans and buttons!”

The drinks reception was finished off by some live music provided by GeoScience staff and students, which was great fun for everyone!

The art is still up so please feel free to pop by and see what the unappreciated world looks like to our staff and students. Maybe you will be inspired to look a little closer at the natural world around you too!

See and Inspire Art/ Science Exhibition

This year will be the third time that I run an art exhibition where GeoScience students and staff celebrate the natural world. I really enjoy this time of year as the art exhibition creates a great buzz in the Crew Building (where the exhibition takes place and where I spend the majority of my time). In my role as a University Teacher I am lucky to interact with many students but I find this event gives me the opportunity to talk to staff and students about what they are planning to submit (many of whom I haven’t seen before).

Last year’s student prize winners photograph titled A new perspective (Harold Wolstenhome)

Continue reading “See and Inspire Art/ Science Exhibition”

What does the environment mean to you? 

Written by Dr. Christina Coakley (University Teacher, School of GeoSciences)

The end of Christmas marked my return to work after having my first child. I thought I would hit the ground running by getting involved with ILW and running an art exhibition as I did the previous year (Art in Crew! Words and Images Art Exhibition as part of Innovative Learning Week (ILW)). With the help of Gillian McCay (Assistant Curator of the Cockburn Museum) and many PhD students we managed to put on a great event, which (as all good events should) descended into musical chaos by the end!

Student prize winner Harold Wolstenholme’s image – A new perspective

The aim of this year’s event was to visually express what the environment means to our staff and students. Within the School of GeoSciences we have people working all over the world on a wide range of topics and in remote locations. We also have many different hobbies which use the environment around us, and therefore I thought this art exhibition would be a great insight into the people within our School. Staff and students were asked to submit a photograph or piece of art work for the event and I printed and framed these ready for ILW.

barrie talking (bw)
Barrie talking to staff and students

On the Thursday of ILW we had a drinks reception, where Barrie Williams (Winner of the British Wildlife Photography Award- bwpawards) gave a short talk about how he sees the environment and the importance of showing it to people via the images he collects. Barrie was lovely and spent a considerable amount of time with our students discussing their work.

In the closing stages of the event I counted up the votes for the best student piece. We had approximately 40 pieces of work submitted for undergraduate, masters students, PhD students and staff. Over 50 votes were cast and there were a wide range of favourites, however a few came out on top.

prize winner3
Student prize winners

First prize went to Harold Wolstenholme for his piece “A new perspective” (top image). Second prize went to Paula Nieto Quintano’s piece “hiking in Valgrande” and third prize went to Leo Peskett’s piece “Unfurling nature’s geometry” (Right hand side photograph is of Paula, me and Leo).



The event came to a close with the Crew Band playing hits such as Ring of Fire and the audience joining in on the chorus! It was a great event and I have to thank everyone who attended and helped out with the event.

The Crew Band

The art is still up in the Crew Building so feel free to swing by and see what the environment means to us!



Art in Crew! Words and Images Art Exhibition as part of Innovative Learning Week (ILW)

Written by Dr. Christina Coakley (University Teacher, School of GeoSciences)ILW1

February 16th 2015 marked the start of Innovative Learning Week for The University of Edinburgh and as a relatively new member of the teaching staff in the School of Geosciences I fancied getting involved! I have always found art and photography a valuable tool for scientists to communicate their work to a wider audience but this tool isn’t used often enough. I decided it would be great fun to run an Art/Science exhibition and get staff and students to submit art and photographs on a GeoScience theme, which we would put up in the Crew Building (King’s Buildings). The art exhibition was called “Words and Images” and the idea was to provide an image and title which provided the viewer with enough information to engage them in the topic.  ILW2

I received art work and photographs from undergraduate students, PhD students and staff within the School of Geosciences. With the help of Gillian McCay (Assistant Curator of the Cockburn Museum) we set to work framing and hanging art work, this was a big job as we had 23 pieces to frame. After a very long day we had hung all the images and already started to get some good feedback. Throughout the week, people in Crew Building got to enjoy all the art in the stairwell of their building and it started to do what we hoped it would, people began to ILW3discuss the topics associated with the images we had up!

On the Friday of ILW we had a drinks reception for staff and students to come along and enjoy the art over a drink and discuss the pieces with the people who produced them. We also had two guests, Jennie Speirs Grant (Artist in residence at the ECCI) and Clare Button (project archivist on the “Towards Dolly” project) who discussed their opinions on art and science. ILW4We also had prize winners, Pippa Stone’s piece “Location, location, translocation” was voted favourite piece, and joint second went to Vinita Ganesh for her piece “Vesuvius” and Elizabeth Butler for “Conservation for sport”. It was a great event and I have to thank all those who attended and have given us feedback regarding the work. The art is still up in Crew so come down and get inspired!

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