The Wonder of Wetlands: Interdisciplinary investigations on the multiple values of English wetlands
This final report of the WetlandLIFE project brings together an overview of the work carried out during the project, presents the key findings and describes the ten major project outputs. The 4-year long research activities included contributions from the arts, economics, humanities, and natural and social sciences, which explored wetland values and possible disvalues with respect to mosquitoes, focussing on English lowland wetlands in urban, rural and coastal settings.
This report also helps navigate and understand the process of interdisciplinarity used during the project. Throughout the report, key "interdisciplinary moments" are presented in terms of five key questions: why, when, who, how and so what. These moments allow the reader to drill down into how interdisciplinarity operated during the project and demonstrates how understanding the multiple values of nature is only possible when multiple perspectives come together to reveal the importance of nature through many different lenses.
The full report can be downloaded free here.
Wetland Mosquito Survey Handbook
How can wetland creation, management and expansion be achieved while limiting perceived or actual public health impacts from mosquitoes? To help answer this question, authors from across the wetlandLIFE team have produced the Wetland Mosquito Survey Handbook. Written by Frances Hawkes, Jolyon Medlock, Alexander Vaux, Robert Cheke and Gabriella Gibson, with contributions from Peter Coates, Tim Acott and Adriana Ford, this open access book gives an interdisciplinary perspective, with views from ecology, biology, public health, social science and history, on the place of mosquitoes in the wetlands of the UK.
The book provides an overview of the biology, ecology and behaviour of British mosquitoes in wetlands, provides details of strategies for surveying mosquitoes, as well as species-specific details on the kinds of aquatic habitats that support British mosquitoes. It also includes details of the legal frameworks surrounding pest management as relates to mosquitoes and an assessment of the current risks associated with future mosquito-borne disease in the UK.
To support practitioners in preparing evidence-based risk assessments and management plans, a tool for predicting which mosquito species are likely to be found in specific wetland environments is included, alongside guidance on how to survey and manage problematic species. Public perceptions of mosquitoes, best practice for responding to enquiries about mosquitoes, and the history of mosquito research in early 20th Century England are also touched upon.
The book can be downloaded free here.
ISBN13: 9780900822100 / ISBN13: 978-0-900822-10-0
Photo Essay: Wetlands, Wonder and Place by Tim Acott
This is not a photo essay about the wildlife of wetlands, although they are certainly characters that come to the fore. Rather, it is a subjective insight into the fantastically diverse and vibrant worlds of wetlands in lowland England. It is a personal encounter as I explore these wet landscapes and think about their sense of place and how different landscape elements come together and have meaning for me. The following are a series of 32 photographs, selected from over 2000, taken over three years across numerous wetlands in England. Ranging across the North Kent Marshes in the South East, to Alkborough Flats on the Humber and the Avalon Marshes in the South West. The photographs and associated text captures my experience of wetlands and hopefully something of the inspiring, haunting and reflective qualities I encountered.
Originally exhibited at the Royal Geographical Society in January 2020, the full photo essay can now be viewed online here.
English Wetlands: Spaces of nature, culture, imagination
Written by WetlandLIFE team members Mary Gearey, Andrew Church and Neil Ravenscroft, this book argues that to understand wetlands is to understand human development. Using case studies drawn from three English wetlands, the book moves between empirical research and scholarship to interrogate how these particular ecosystems have played an essential part in the development of our contemporary society; yet inhabit a strange place in our national psyche. Chapters address a range of cultural and environmental wetland concerns. Consideration is given to: the ways in which we have revered, engineered and renaturalised these landscapes throughout history; English wetlands as spaces of beauty, creativity, reflection, rejuvenation and multi-species interactions; accelerating climate change in an age of neoliberalism. The final chapter then is a reflection on our collective lives together alongside other species, exploring what sustainability transitions might mean for human-wetland relationships.
Published in 2020, more information and ways to buy the book in print or as an e-book are available on the publisher's website here.
Mosquito & Me: a narrative on mosquitoes in English wetlands in 2018
This short documentary is a narrative on experiences and views of mosquitoes in wetlands in three parts of England - Somerset, Bedford and Alkborough Flats in the Humber - made using a method called Community Voice. The participants were asked about many experiences related to wetlands - sense of place, nature, mental and physical health and wellbeing, changes in the landscape, challenges and future visions. Questions about mosquitoes were centred around how they experience them (if at all), their views towards them, any adaptations they make, and their perceptions of risk now and into the future.
You can watch the short documentary here.
Community Voice Documentaries
These documentaries are narratives on experiences and values related to wetlands in England, created using a research method called Communit Voice. We focused our research around urban wetlands in Bedford (Priory Country Park and Millennium Country Park), at wetlands associated with agricultural reversion on the Somerset Levels (Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor) and at a coastal wetland created to protect homes on the Humber estuary (Alkborough Flats). The resulting documentaries for Bedford and Somerset can be watched below, while the Alkborough documentary is in preparation.
Participants included people living within or near wetlands, people working in wetlands, those who visit or volunteer, and others who have a strong connection with the sites. They were asked about their experiences related to wetlands - sense of place, nature, mental and physical health and wellbeing, changes in the landscape, challenges and future visions. They were also asked about mosquitoes - how they experience them (if at all), their views towards them, any adaptations they make, and their perceptions of risk now and into the future. These question, and their responses, provide an insight into the values associated with wetlands, particularly from a health and wellbeing perspective, and future considerations for management and wetland restoration.
Reclaiming Wetland Values: Marsh, Mud and Wonder
Held at the Royal Geographical Society in London, from 27th January to 2nd February 2020, nearly 1,000 visitors to the exhibition had the opportunity to explore and celebrate the values of these environments through an interdisciplinary combination of physical science, social science, economics, human and cultural geography, poetry, audio and visual art. They also had the opportunity to gain further insight or discuss the works with members of the project teams who were present throughout the week. The full exhibition guide is available to download here.
A stakeholders day (by invitation) was held on Friday 31st January, where key stakeholders and interested parties could engage more closely with the science and art behind the projects through talks, discussion, and a guided exhibition tour. Click here for the introductory presentation from WetlandLIFE Principal Investigator, Dr Tim Acott.
WOW - Wetland on Wheels
WetlandLIFE commissioned the collaborative partnership of socio-environmental artist, Kerry Morrison and sound artist, Helmut Lemke, to explore wetlands and mosquitos in Bedford and Alkborough (2017-2020).
The artist brief read: “We are looking for artists whose work can contribute to our knowledge and appreciation of wetlands and mosquitoes. By this we mean artworks, in any medium, that seek to influence our awareness, understanding, attitudes, emotions, values or behaviour towards them, and the ecological and social interactions that have brought them into being.”
Both Kerry and Helmut are irresistibly drawn to maligned species and landscapes and seek to uncover aesthetic and ecological qualities where they are neglected or vilified by some and where others may see ugliness, nuisance, or negative impacts. From the position at research sites of Alkborough Flats in North Lincolnshire and in Bedford, Priory Park and Millennium Park, their perception of the mosquito shifted from a nuisance insect that could be a potential danger to human health, to an insect that was a vital part of the ecosystem with many other species dependent on it and its eggs and larvae as a food source. Yet, more than that, the artists came to appreciate that the mosquito is a highly developed, successful and awe-inspiring insect.
From experiencing the mosquito on site and learning gleaned as part of the research team the artists created the WoW (Wetland on Wheels), a vintage Caravan that was transformed into a space to share the research of the WetlandLife team, and their fascination with Wetlands and mosquitoes.
WoW was an in-situ Hub communicating and promoting the wonder of Mosquitoes. WoW: a macro mosquito Laboratorium; a space for wetland conversations; and a gallery of found knowledge from WetlandLife research sites. It was a Venue for: listening to wetland sounds and stories; watching clips; looking at photos, drawings, objet trouve and mosquitoes; and reading about wetlands and their inhabitants. In WoW visitors experienced artistic responses to wetlands and were invited to contribute their knowledge to the mix.
From 27th January to 2nd February 2020, WetlandLIFE CoastWEB exhibited Reclaiming Wetland Values: Marsh, Mud and Wonder at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Visitors could encounter and engage with an interdisciplinary combination of physical science, social science, economics, human and cultural geography, poetry, audio and visual art. They also had the opportunity to gain further insight or discuss the works with members of the project teams who were present throughout the week. For the duration of the exhibition Kerry and Helmut were in WoW at Alkborough Flats, live-streaming winter wetland life, daily, into the RGS.
Marginal Species by Victoria H. Leslie
The first short story to emerge from the narrative research within the project, written by author Victoria H. Leslie, is called Marginal Species. The underlying research involved Victoria's personal engagement with Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor on the Somerset Levels, with inspiration taken from activities such as ecological research at the wetlands, like botanical surveys, and the language and concepts used in disciplines like entomology. Victoria reads a short excerpt from Marginal Species in the video below.
A reviewer of speculative fiction, Des Lewis, described the piece as ‘an incredibly beautiful treatment of trans-gender… unforgettable… an act of flowering’.
Marginal Species is published by Egaeus Press in a collection of eighteen short stories called The Book of Flowering, and is available to purchase in hardback via the Egaeus Press website.