Kat Jones, our public affairs manager, writes about her search for an artist to work on a three year project at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond.

Like many staff at RSPB, I come from a science background. My PhD was with lesser black-backed gulls, and their breeding ecology. However in the 20 years since I started my PhD, my interest in how we involve and engage people with the natural world and create the conservationists of tomorrow has led me into working in collaboration with artists. Over the past few years, in partnership with the Scottish Graduate School of the Arts and Humanities (SGSAH), we have hosted graduate student artists’ residences at some of our nature reserves.  These have been three month projects, usually spread over six months, or a year of the student’s PhD and have created some fantastic outputs including film poems, digital art and sound installations (see links at the bottom of the page for more information).

Sound artist Luca Nasciuti at Inversnaid

I am now really excited to be taking the next step with SGSAH and collaborating with academics from the University of Glasgow's Schools of Geographical and Earth Sciences, and Interdisciplinary Studies, to host a three and a half year-long PhD studentship. Dr Emma Cardwell of University of Glasgow, and her colleagues, Hayden Lorimer and David Borthwick, will provide the academic rigour and supervision. My role will be to provide the information and support from RSPB’s side. The studentship project will have the dual advantages of creating artwork at Loch Lomond which will benefit visitors to the reserve as well as fostering learning which will impact on our network of 80 reserves in Scotland and 200 UK-wide. 

We have just advertised the role and are seeking the right person to look at the role of art in engaging people with nature through creating site based work at one of RSPB’s most iconic nature reserves.

The name of the PhD project is” Close Encounters: Art, Presence and Environmental Management at Loch Lomond, Scotland” and we are hoping that this PhD can help us explore how we can inspire people to care, to get involved, and to begin a life-long passion for nature through experience of our reserves.

Although nature has always been the main event on RSPB reserves, we use ‘interpretation’ of relevant scientific understanding to create understanding and meaning for visitors. Since our mission is winning hearts and creating real connection and understanding with our audiences, we hope that this project will help us see where the arts can help make those meaningful connections between our reserves and people: those new to us, and long-time supporters and nature experts.

Emma Cardwell, my collaborator, is as excited as me about the project “The crossover between art, science and environment has never been more vibrant than it is now, and we’re really excited to be working with RSPB to give a student the chance to not only explore this academically, but create or curate some actual place-based art in the Loch Lomond reserve. This is going to be a fantastic PhD, with real potential for creativity and impact for nature conservation.”

We’re seeking someone with experience as a practising artist or curator, and with the relevant academic qualifications to take part in the project, which could engage with a range of media, from sculpture to sound to poetry. The full specification is here (link). This project is part of a Doctoral Training Partnership funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The candidate with the best fit for the project will go forward to a competitive final selection phase organised by Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities. If approved, the PhD candidate will begin studies in October 2019. 

For full details about the project, and how to apply, please download the PDF file below. 

Links to previous SGSAH artists in residence work:

 Filmpoems by Roseanne Watt   

  • Flightpaths
  • Night walk with Natterjacks
  • Every field, a memory. 


Susannah Ramsay created a film poem and a projection of her poem in the woodland at the reserve at dusk  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOf1tfpYFUA

The woodland dusk walk and film experience is reviewed here. 


This is a blog by Luca Nasciuti, the sound artist who worked with us at Inversnaid and Glasgow


And the digital artist Catherine M. Weir who worked at Mersehead has documented her work here


Advert - Close Encounters.pdf