Getty image of Plymouth Sound. Camera partially underwater. 

Plymouth – Britain’s Ocean City – is to become home to the UK’s first Blue Carbon Artist in Residence as it expands its efforts to engage local residents and visitors with the wonders of the marine environment.

Artist Rosie Sherwood will work with people and organisations across the city to create an immersive seagrass experience within the National Marine Aquarium.

Based on scientific and visual research carried out in the city, it will use light, visual arts and sound to showcase an underwater seagrass habitat similar to that found within the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park.

With satellite installations across the city, it will aim to raise awareness of seagrass’ ability to store carbon from the environment and to highlight the role blue carbon plays in supporting climate and coastal resilience more widely.

The installations will also aim to spark a city-wide dialogue about the role of local biodiversity in climate change action, and encourage residents to take action to reduce their personal impact on the environment.

Launched in the wake of the COP26 conference in the UK, the Blue Carbon Artist in Residence programme is being led by the University of Plymouth, the Ocean Conservation Trust and Plymouth City Council.

Supported by funding from the Natural Environment Research Council, it will be developed over the next year however it is envisaged the installation will remain in place at the National Marine Aquarium until 2024.

The project builds on the city’s status as one of the world’s most forward-thinking centres for marine research, innovation, education and action.

Project Manager Dr Siân Rees is an Associate Professor in Social Ecological Systems Research at the University, which was recently named the best university globally for its marine research and teaching in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021. She said:

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with an artist in residence to mainstream the essential role that marine ecosystems have in the carbon cycle. In the current climate emergency, there is no time to waste in the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems. It is also a great way to engage the wider Plymouth community with the outstanding marine research and initiatives taking place in the city.”

sian rees
Dr Siân Rees

Rosie Sherwood, a former artist in residence at the University’s Marine Institute who has worked on several pieces exploring human’s relationship with nature, added:

“I am so excited to be taking up the role of Blue Carbon Artist in Residence. To have the opportunity to work with so many amazing people and such respected organisations is a dream.

"Seagrass is an essential part of the marine ecosystem and the fight against the climate crisis, I can’t wait to get started in creating an arts piece that will hopefully do it justice.” 

The Ocean Conservation Trust is currently leading England’s largest seagrass planting programme, which will see a four-hectare seagrass meadow created in the National Marine Park. 

Nicola Bridge, Head of Ocean Advocacy and Engagement at the Ocean Conservation Trust, said:

"All of our work at the Ocean Conservation Trust is centred around people and helping them find their connection to the Ocean. The National Marine Aquarium is vital to our work, as it is an awe-inspiring place where our visitors are able to experience a wide variety of local undersea habitats.

"We have found that people are really interested in seagrass and are keen to understand how the ecosystem works. We are really excited that Rosie will use her creativity to support this understanding, as we find that artistic techniques are often key to interpreting scientific concepts and help build emotional connections to plants and animals that are often out of site and out of mind."

Plymouth City Council is leading the National Marine Park project, which was this year awarded £9.5 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to make its vision of a park in the sea a reality.

Councillor Maddi Bridgman, Cabinet member for the Street Scene and the Environment, added:

“Another first for Plymouth and the National Marine Park. We are all learning more about how valuable seagrass is to the environment and look forward to seeing these intriguing installations pop up in the city and spread the message, not just about the National Marine Park but also how it helps address climate change."

Find out more information about the Blue Carbon Artist in Residence programme.

THE Impact Rankings SDG14 Life Below Water 2021 Top 10 large

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We are ranked the number one university globally for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 14: life below water.

The award recognises the quality of our marine research and teaching as well as our efforts to reduce the impact of campus activities on the marine environment. The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021: life below water