Guest Blog Part III. by Dr. Jenny Rock, University of Otago, Dunedin NZ

Schoodic Institute is pleased to share the third submission in a three-part series of posts by Dr. Jenny Rock, Sr. Lecturer in Science and Society, University of Otago; and research associate, College of the Atlantic. Links to Part I and Part II

Co-constructing a Sense of Place: Art and the intertidal

Many intertidal issues are economic in focus, but they are also often aesthetic. Some people value the untouched intertidal most, others an intertidal with traditional use happening in it, because they value the history of people working that space and/or because they value the jobs and livelihood it provides. Other people value the charismatic species that use the intertidal, like shorebirds that feed off the scuds (amphipods) and other crustaceans in the rockweed. It is a big mix of who values what and how do we protect what we all value. In short, it is a complex place!

How do we combine values and decide on what aspects to try to maintain? Thinking about what “makes the place” for each of us (our “sense of place”) is an important step- as is communicating this to others. One aim of my sabbatical was to think about how to build a project that enables communities to communicate their sense of place for the intertidal, in a way that helps us jointly think through future planning.

As an artist as well as social and biological scientist, I think visual communication can be a way to help different people share perspectives: it is easy for images to work as talking points, and indeed, they can say much themselves without words. At the Rockweed Rodeo I made wood cuts for people to print from to co-create a “rockweed canopy”, which combined with personal perspectives on rockweed. In a bigger collaborative project, from local tribes to townships, I hope diverse communities might get involved with envisioning what they value in the intertidal from past to present to future.

I think it is easy to get complacent about the environment in Maine. There is a lot of water, a lot of land, and the woods come back relentlessly. But the intertidal is different: ‘owned privately but loved collectively’ by the commons. That reads a bit like an epitaph, and it could be if we lose sight of what we value there and how to act to maintain it. Marine science work that the Schoodic Institute is collaborating in is quite forward thinking about planning for whole ecosystems like the intertidal as well as its critical species, like rockweed.

When you think about it, “intertidal management” sounds a rather bizarre concept. I will end here by sharing my reaction to what I was learning in the last months, in the form of a poem framed by two artworks.

I saw the back-to-back mansions, water-front worlds

and I thought, whose intertidal?

I met the local harvesters, heard their healthy cry

and felt buoyant myself.

Until I heard the prospects, of Asian markets

and caught the baying of the wolves.

How do you own a place so transient?

Daily, monthly,

whim of springtide and storm surge

so slippery and fragrantly stenched.

Deliciously repulsively pungent

compulsively changing, what could you ever manage?

Literally littered (littorily)

with natural and unnatural debris,

exotic and local, we weather together

into an interesting amorphous lump,

human ecology, en masse.

Dr. Jenny Rock is a biologist with 20 years experience in field- and lab-based research, as well as an artist, often working in intaglio printmaking. She is a Sr Lecturer in Science and Society at the University of Otago (Dunedin, NZ), with interests in aesthetics and sociology of science, participatory practice, traditional ecological knowledge, sensory cognition and creative communication, and transdisciplinary ‘ArtScience’. She serves as a technical advisor for the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge in NZ, and on the board of S+ART (The Science, Technology and Art Trust of NZ). She is a native Mainer and remains a research associate of the College of the Atlantic.