Arts, science and conservation: a new collaboration for CCI

24th January 2014

Despite the Cambridge Conservation Initiative’s partners having an exceptional reputation for robust science and policy development, they continue to face significant challenges about how to influence mainstream public, policy and government attitudes towards conservation and the environment.

In keeping with CCI’s innovative and interdisciplinary approach the Initiative is now embarking on a new collaboration to explore novel ways of bringing together the arts and sciences to foster the conservation of biodiversity and the natural environment. Engaging with artists, musicians, and authors is not a new venture for individual CCI partners. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), for example, recently announced a project in which four artists will travel to Senegal with a number of BTO staff to visit key overwintering sites for cuckoos and other migrant birds. BirdLife International also has a strong history of working with artists. The organisation’s long-standing collaboration with the author, Mark Cocker, and photographer, David Tipling, culminated in the book Birds and People, in 2013, and the 2012 Troubled Waters project built on the artist Bruce Pearson’s lifelong commitment to albatross conservation. 

CCI is fortunate in being able to capitalise on the support of a BirdLife International staff member who has been instrumental in the development of BirdLife’s birds, culture and society work, John Fanshawe. Dr Fanshawe has been seconded to CCI for one day a week to develop CCI’s collaboration between the conservation and arts communities.

Although in its early stages, work is underway to identify potential areas where this collaboration could play a significant role in CCI’s work. As part of this, Luciana Leite de Araújo, a student from the University of Cambridge’s Masters in Conservation Leadership will be undertaking a placement with CCI, to look in more detail at the question of how conservation scientists and practitioners could be engaging with artists to influence public attitudes and improve the delivery of conservation.

One area of particular interest from the perspective of CCI’s engagement with the arts is CCI’s Conservation Campus in the refurbished Arup building, due to open in late 2015. The project to refurbish the building includes a significant public art commission, and CCI is therefore working with the established international environmental artists Ackroyd & Harvey as they develop their ideas for Campus artworks. The building itself also represents an excellent opportunity to display work by artists, and as a venue for the generation of engaging conversations and collaborations between artists and conservationists. Furthermore, CCI’s global reach provides an opportunity to ensure that these dialogues between arts, science and conservation are international in scope and influence.