As a 2016-2017 Charles Bullard Fellow in Forest Research at Harvard University, I worked as an embedded designer-in-residence at Harvard’s research forest in Petersham, MA. Over the course of the year, I created a variety of art and design driven science-communication projects with ongoing Harvard Forest research initiatives.
The Fellowship enabled me explore and test theory and practice of design-driven science communication. Central to my work was research into past and current trends of public engagement with science, specifically ecology and forestry. This research included applied creativity as an exploration of new ideas, communication models, and practice modes. In particular, as I developed creative work with scientists, I asked, “How can art and design support science communication to foster cultural cohesion around ecological issues and help inform ecology-minded decision making?”
My Fellowship program included a variety of research-based design projects, including work inspired by New England Landscape Futures Lab at the Harvard Forest. Led by Kathy Lambert and Jonathan Thompson, the lab seeks to understand possible trends and impacts of landscape change in New England by developing and analyzing a set of alternative landscape scenarios to inform decisions on land-use planning, infrastructure investment, conservation priority-setting, and forest management.
My creative output, informed and inspired by the lab’s research, focused on New England futures, to visualize how the region could change over the next 50 years. My contribution intended to demystify the process of computer modeling underlying the project and help translate spatial mapping to accessible visualizations. This futures work included conventional perspectives, such as scenario landscape illustrations using the Harvard Forest’s Fisher Museum’s dioramas. Visualizations also helped communicate qualitative research such as stakeholder focus groups, or tease out ecological development details, such as invasive pests like the emerald ash bore, within different cultural perspectives across varying scenarios.
Beyond the conventional 2D graphic techniques, I experimented with a variety of media and methods in which to engage the public on the ideas within various New England landscape scenarios. The work explored provocative communication approaches to help stakeholders appreciate relevant scenarios for the future. It ranged from pedagogical props for public presentation to future-thinking speculative design explorations, as both renderings and physical installations on the grounds of the Harvard Forest. Often inspired by the subtext of future scenario lab research, the work was intended to provoke critical thought and discussion amongst scientists, creatives, and the general population.
“New England Futures Scenario Quadrant,” digital drawing, 7.5 x 11 inches, 2016. Illustrative New England quadrant visualization featuring government and population as two driving scenario forces. Illustration based on photography of Fisher Museum land-use diorama at Harvard Forest. Collaboration with Jonathan Thompson et al.
“Future New England Landscape Scenarios No. 2 of 4; High Population and High Government,” digital drawing, 7.5 x 11 inches, 2016. Illustration based on photography of Fisher Museum land-use diorama at Harvard Forest.
“Future New England Landscape Scenarios No. 4 of 4; Low Population and Low Government,” digital drawing, 7.5 x 11 inches, 2016. Illustration based on photography of Fisher Museum land-use diorama at Harvard Forest.
“Future New England Landscape Scenario No. 22,” digital illustration, 8X10 inches, 2016.
Illustration based on audit of Harvard Forest lab meeting at which researchers shared findings from scenario focus group in Burlington VT.
Sea levels rise by 22 feet. “Climate Change Refugees” flee East Coast. Cape Cod Diaspora inundates Vermont commons and coopts town meetings. Dairy farms lose ground to “Field & Stream” condo development. First covered car wash bridge opens in summer of 2049 in West Arlington, Vermont.
“Landscape Futures Prop Kit,” wood, rope, paper, acrylic, recycled knobs, dials, and miscilaneous hardware, dimensions vary, 2016. Collaboration with Dr. Matthew Duveneck.
Pedagogical props as teaching tool for landscape futures outreach. Kit of familiar forms serve as prompts for understanding scenario computer modeling and implications of future New England landscape scenarios over the next 50 years.
“Climate Change Data Stick,” digital illustration, 8X10 inches, 2017.
Illustration series exploring speculative design as medium to communicate feedback loops between culture and environment within future New England landscape scenarios.
“Timber Drone,” digital illustration, 8X10 inches, 2017.
“Back 40 Eco Monitor,” digital illustration, 8X10 inches, 2017.
“Suburban Backyard Filter System,” digital illustration, 8X10 inches, 2017.
“EAB Pestilence Woodshed,” digital illustration, 8X10 inches, 2016.
“Wild Fire as Ecological Constraint,” digital illustration of physical prop, 8X10 inches, 2016.