Creative Associates 2018

Image credit: Carey Marks

Communicating research to those outside the subject area is important, but can be challenging - it is much more than disseminating results. It is about translating these results into the right language, format and context for the best accessibility and impact. 

The Sustainable Earth Institute's Creative Associates projects aim to explore novel and innovative ways of communicating research and develop a portfolio of case studies of the different creative approaches possible.

STORMLAMP promotional video

This video is an opportunity to increase awareness of the STORMLAMP project. It will be an important milestone as the project reaches the second year in May 2018. This is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the research: what has been learnt about the impact of waves on lighthouses, and what techniques have been developed to understand the structural behaviour of the lighthouses through monitoring and modelling. This promotional video is part-funded by the University of Plymouth's Marine Institute

It never rains, but it pours: reading a desert landscape

The Atacama Desert is the driest, highest and oldest desert in the world. The lack of rain preserves ancient features of the landscape in excellent detail. In this project we aim to convey how geoscientists are able to explore and read a landscape record spanning some two million years to understand the impact of increasing aridity on flood hazard through time in this extreme environment. To convey how this is achieved we will produce a short film that follows the project supplemented by a mixed reality format that enables the user to experience how geoscientists see the landscape.

The Science of Big Boulders

As outstanding features in the landscape, large boulders have long captured the imagination of humans

Anne Mather and her team have been at the forefront of understanding what big boulders can tell us about related geohazards

Read more about Anne's work

What’s a Mobile Phone made of? (Towards sustainable recycling of mobile phones)

Mobile phones are a major part of our everyday life, but who knows what our modern smartphones are made of? How do we know whether the materials are mined in a responsible and sustainable manner, without harm to the environment and to people? It probably makes a lot more sense to recycle the phone when we upgrade to a newer one especially if we knew how scarce these materials actually are? This project aims to increase the awareness about the rare materials in our phones, their provenance and potential sustainability, by creating a potentially viral animation – the exploding mobile phone.


Signposting the NurSusTOOLKIT - carbon emissions come to life

In delivering healthcare, the NHS has a significant negative impact on the environment. We are creating a visual representation of impact and potential carbon and financial savings in order to raise awareness about this, and to draw attention to educational materials developed for healthcare professionals to help them to meet the challenges of sustainability and carbon reduction.

Professor Janet Richardson on the NurSus TOOLKIT:

Climate change is a huge challenge in health care – but this new resource will help nurses and health professionals face it.

A suitcase full of eels

A multidisciplinary practice-based exploration of the role of disruptive, experimental narrative techniques in environmental activism and species conservation

This creative project brings together two academics and artists from different disciplines to use their love of narrative and absurdity to make artworks that draw on the historical importance and cultural relevance of the European Eel, Anguilla anguilla.

Working closely with The Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) the artists will create a body of work that is at once critically engaged, scientifically informed, rigorously researched, attractive and playful. The work will be published as an ‘object book’ and as an exhibition both nationally and internationally, as well as being presented through a series of talks, workshops and conferences.

  • Project lead: John Kilburn
  • Creative: Guillemot Press
  • Output: Poetry/graphic design/creative writing/bookbinding/paper engineering/publishing

Robotic fruit and vegetable picker video

According to the National Farmer's Union, because of a shortage of labour, fruit and vegetables are being left to rot on British farms. Manual labour often represents more than half of the farmers’ costs, and is typically imported. Dr Martin Stoelen and his team are developing cutting-edge robotics based upon soft robot arms for selective harvesting to tackle this growing problem. Including cauliflower, raspberry and tomato harvesting. This project will aim to produce bite-size videos optimized for social media to explain the problem, aims and solutions of the Robot Fruit and Veg harvesting systems being developed at the University of Plymouth. This video is part-funded through the ERDF Agri-tech project.

Scientists develop harvesting robots that could revolutionise farming practices

We’d like to prove that robotic technology that can work in rural environments is not only possible, but affordable, viable and can help increase productivity on farms.

The Automated Brassica harvesting in Cornwall (ABC) project is led by Lecturer in Robotics Dr Martin Stoelen with funding from Agri-Tech Cornwall

Read more about the project

Visualisation of Past and Contemporary Rates of Carbon Sequestration in Peatland

Peatlands cover less than 3 per cent of the Earth’s terrestrial land surface but hold an equivalent amount of CO2 to the Earth’s atmosphere. Every year on our planet, photosynthesis exchanges ~5 per cent of atmospheric CO2 with living plant biomass. This exchange of CO2 is invisible to us. This project aims to allow the public to visualise carbon exchange on one of the natural world’s most important carbon pumps, ‘peatlands’. A recent paper (Lunt et al 2018) found that Dartmoor with a mild, wet and long growing season produces some of the highest annual rates of carbon draw down and storage of any peatland on the planet.


Learning to change the world: using the UN Sustainable Development Goals to transform Higher Education (HE)

The University of Plymouth has an international reputation in sustainability education research, as highlighted through an intended REF impact case study. This research project is being developed to contribute to this case study by capturing how a community of practice at Plymouth is transforming HE teaching to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

A creative partnership has been formed to help tell the story of this research project in novel ways, enabling the impact of this work to reach a broader audience; crossing disciplinary divides and supporting public engagement. It seeks to creatively communicate how the campus, city and local environment can serve as a living lab where staff, students and community partners learn to change the world together.


Sustainability education

Plymouth is developing an international reputation for being a lead Higher Education Institution in sustainability education.

The sustainability education team within the University’s Teaching and Learning Support, provide a range of support to staff and students

Find out more about the Centre for Sustainable Futures

Extract, Transform, Bed Load (‘ET BedLoad’)

The sustainability of river management practices can benefit from higher resolution data on river bedload, such as those provided by recent developments in low-cost passive monitoring technologies. To accelerate the uptake of this data by researchers and practitioners, this project brings together academics and creative software technologists to develop an interactive approach to sharing, manipulating and creatively visualising such data via an open data platform. This pilot project exploits the availability of a unique data set and novel software model to encourage researcher collaboration and practitioner interest in the opportunities offered.

Professional photo reporting of pulmonary rehabilitation in Kyrgyzstan

There is nothing worse than not being able to breathe. Chronic lung disease is a massive and growing threat to global health. Even people with profound disability improve with pulmonary rehabilitation, a programme of exercise and education that allows patients to manage their own disease and reduces breathlessness, dependence and social isolation. Our research shows that rehab can be life transforming in Africa and Asia.

This project will take professional photojournalist to record our work in Kyrgyzstan and bring to life the huge value of rehab to ordinary people and showing this in mainstream press as well as scientific environments.

Addressing the problem of chronic lung disease in resource-poor settings

Lung damage from the air we breathe is a growing global problem and one of the leading causes of death worldwide

Rupert and his team are working with communities in Uganda, Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan to reduce the exposure to those at risk.

Read more about Rupert's work

Smart Cities Toolkit

This project will create a ‘smart cities’ toolkit using Augmented Reality, Internet of Things and Big Data to engage community and city partners around the potential of smart cities technologies. The project will showcase three demo ‘smart city’ projects that will be available on a web site to enable communities and city partners to understand smart cities in an accessible and engaging way. The demos will be:

  • ‘Talking Plant’ - augmented reality interface to view pollution and air quality sensor data of a plant
  • ‘Happy Bench’ - social media (Twitter) interface to demonstrate how emotion can be used to make changes in lights on a city bench from sad, to happy to angry
  • “Street Chatter’ - augmented reality interface to visualise combined city wide data in the street in real time around a person. 
The project is about introducing people to how they can interact directly with the city around them, and to show that computing can be ‘city-friendly’, and about connecting with everyday space and things. We hope that the community and civic groups who we will work with will have their eyes opened to seeing the city and digital code as about potential for a whole range of interactions. It develops out of our EU and AHRC funded research into smart cities, which finds that there is a need to be more inclusive in enabling participation in smart cities. The project develops out of existing research impact case studies that have used a toolkit approach to make complex and technical developments accessible to a non-expert audience. The aim is for communities and civic groups to then be empowered to use these technologies for their own benefit.

Realising Land Management Change in East Africa: A new role for animated infographics

Through a series of two interdisciplinary research projects in East Africa, we are exploring the challenges of soil erosion and the impact on pastoralist communities as it reshapes the land.

Catastrophic reshaping of the landscape is driven by complex social/cultural transitions, the impact of which are amplified by climate change, making this a truly "wicked problem" that requires novel approaches to communication with stakeholders, to bring real change in land management.

To date we have created a collection of ‘2D” infographics and links to a photographic documentary study. This project will build on this success to build a new dimension, with an animated piece that offers to the communicate the problem more dynamically. This will aim to be more visually exciting – and which describes this complex problem in a minimal language and engaging way.

Jali Ardhi - care for the land

Soil erosion and associated downstream siltation problems challenge water, food and energy security.

The Jali ardhi project aims to evaluate the impact of soil erosion on both the environmental and social wellbeing of communities in East Africa.

Read more about the Jali Ardhi project involving Carey Marks