Creative Associates

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.

Creative Associates 2021

The Creative Associates programme has awarded seven projects for 2021, funding collaborations between university researchers and creative organisations to promote research related to climate change. 

We look forward to sharing the creative outputs of each project in June, including film, animation, literature, theatrical installation, virtual reality and more.  

Read a short summary of each project below.


Image: Sustainable Earth Institute Creative Associates (Andy Hughes)

Image: Sustainable Earth Institute Creative Associates (Andy Hughes)

2021 Collaborations

Near Future Visions

Researcher: Dr David Sergeant
Creative: Sundog Media
Output: Film, animation, fine art, poetry

Near Future Visions is a short film poem that opens up the dystopian contemporary moment of ecological emergency to utopian visions of the near future. Often there seems to be no alternative to the way we live now, and this fosters a pessimism about society’s capacity for change. However, in this innovative work by artists Kayla Parker and Stuart Moore and researcher and poet David Sergeant, the everyday Plymouth of 2021 becomes host to fragments of a better future. These glimpsed visions combine the pragmatic needs of an equitable carbon-zero future, with the wilder desires needed to drive radical change.


Visualising Climate: Young People’s Responses to the Climate Emergency

Researcher: Professor Alison Anderson
Creative: Scarlet Graphics and FotoNow
Output: Film, infographics, animation, digital visualisation, graphic design

This collaboration will examine the potential for creative participatory processes to foster young people’s sense of empowerment in communicating the climate emergency. Qualitative data will be collected via a series of innovative, co-produced workshops involving young people aged 16-21 from different socio-economic areas of Devon. An interactive game using 3D visual icons designed by Carey Marks will provide a visually exciting means to engage young people in discussing the issues, including how mainstream media are covering them. This will be filmed by FotoNow to capture participant voices and bring this novel means of engaging young people to a wider audience.

The Ocean Organ

Researcher: Professor Jason Hall-Spencer
Creative: Dr Kate Crawfurd
Output: Infographics, fine art, theatrical installation

This project will illustrate, using installation and theatre, the many ways in which the climate emergency is affecting the ocean’s ability to act as sources and sinks for carbon dioxide. In dynamic, visual demonstrations we explore the ‘Evil Twin’ of climate warming: ocean acidification and nature based solutions to reduce the twin effects of rising carbon dioxide levels such as floating wind farms, seaweed farming and helping the recovery of coastal wetlands. The displays will engage audiences both young and not so young in the methods being developed to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and effects on ocean life.

Trees for climate: an emergency help guide

Researcher: Dr Thomas Murphy
Creative: Just Enough Brave
Output: Infographics, animation, digital visualisation, graphic design

Trees offer multiple ways of mitigating the climate emergency, but how quickly can woodlands expand to meet this challenge and what steps are needed for this? ‘Trees for climate’ will visualise the potential for natural establishment of oak trees within UK upland pastures for climate change mitigation. Visualisation will show the timescale at which upland ‘Atlantic’ oak woodland, considered ‘temperate rainforest’ can expand into enclosed and extensive upland pasture systems whilst showing potential carbon sequestered (tonnesCO2). Supportive infographics and web platform will communicate a management guide for oak woodland expansion to help landowners and managers tackle the climate emergency.

C is for CobBauge (working title)

Researcher: Professor Steve Goodhew
Creative: artNucleus
Output: Film, VR, animation, digital visualisation, fine art, music

‘C is for CobBauge’ is a short film using innovative thermal imaging cameras to promote the reinvention of an ancient building material, cob, for the 21st century. Combining thermal footage with scenes created in Virtual Reality (using Tiltbrush software), this playful, experimental film will focus on the tactile, emotional and environmental case for using such a basic earth-bound mix to build for the future. ‘C is for CobBauge’ is a mini manifesto, visually juxtaposing high-tech imagery with low-tech material to create an idiosyncratic narrative designed to foster a more earth-aware aesthetic in construction.

Ghost Nets and Phantom Islands: Mapping the Anthropocene

Researcher: Dr Ben Smith
Creative: Dr Rose Ferraby
Output: Book design

This project will combine creative writing and visual art to explore new possibilities for mapping our changing planet. Drawing on a tradition of fantastical and speculative maps and travelogues, from medieval ‘mappa mundi’ to C17th accounts of ‘phantom islands’ and trade routes across an Arctic free of ice, this project will explore how historic mapmaking techniques and discourses – with their tall tales, lurking monsters and shifting truths – can provide new ways of engaging with the current uncertainty of a changing climate and offer unexpected insights into the very real but no less bewildering landscapes and seascapes of the Anthropocene.

Adaptive Reuse of Empty Post COVID-19 Cities: Building Sustainable & Inclusive Communities

Researcher: Professor Igea Troiani
Creative: Soundview Media
Output: Film, VR

This project studies the adaptive reuse of empty Post COVID-19 cities focusing on Plymouth’s Civic Centre. In the post COVID-19 economic crisis, sustainable city spaces will be at the heart of the re-growth and Resurgam for Plymouth and global cities. It builds upon research on the sustainable design of empty/unfinished buildings post the 2008 crisis using audio-visual methods to produce a 6-8 minute immersive 360 documentary film for in person and online viewing that sets out a globally applicable, community-led method to create sustainable city spaces in empty cities through case study.

Marking Change: Making Sense of Climate Change at Key Stage 2

Researcher: Professor Robert Brown
Creative: Millfields Inspired
Output: Digital visualisation, films and short narratives on bespoke accessible website

This trans-disciplinary project unites the creative capacity of university students, the knowledge of an educational charity (Millfields Inspired) and University staff research to collaboratively contribute to primary school children’s learning through the production of short films co-joining climate change awareness and key stage learning outcomes. Part of a long-term strategy to contribute to the betterment and enhanced resilience of the wider community, this project will focus on Stonehouse in Plymouth, Devon’s most economic and social challenged neighbourhood. This innovative educational initiative will engage students in creatively-grounded and civically-minded practice that makes a difference, while preparing them for future employment.

Pollenize Bee Trail

Researcher: Professor Katharine Willis
Creative: Pollenize
Output: Film, infographics, AR, digital visualisation, fine art, graphic design, artificial intelligence

Researcher Katharine Willis and Pollenize CIC have been collaborating on smart bee hives for the past year with the Green Minds Project. For the Pollenize Bee Trail their research and data will be translated into public infographics through a series of bee trail boards designed by Joshua Blackwell around Plymouth. This trail located at 10 sites across Plymouth (Plymouth University, The Box, Plymouth Argyle Football Club, Poole Farm, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Marine Biological Association, National Marine Association, Royal William Yard, Millfields Trust) will host information related to the Green Minds project; looking at green space, digital nature connectivity and rewilding.