Capability Beaver: inspired by the original landscape artist
The beaver is both architect and artist. Its work has form and function. As a species it is simply fascinating and for me as an artist and scientist, it seems to epitomise just how interlinked art and science can be when exploring and contributing to the world around us. The beaver has it all!
I have been interested in both art and science since I can remember, but it was the opportunity to live the life of the film Chalet Girl, spending two winters snowboarding in the Alps, when I realised that I shouldn’t just be enjoying nature for myself, I should be using my skills to help protect it (and I don’t with mean rad 180s)! I am currently a PhD student at the Natural History Museum in London and I’m working on implementing a new and exciting tool for measuring biodiversity – using DNA left behind in the environment which can be picked up and the species identified – wildlife detective work! Through my studies I hope to contribute to meaningful science at the forefront of research. However, the advances of science will have greatest influence if people know about them. That’s where science communication comes in!
While studying Biology at undergraduate level, I exercised my artistic bent by implementing a project for schools titled ‘Creativity in Learning’, which used art and crafts to teach biology to primary school children. I discovered that the vast majority of the class retained information best when they saw an image or video, or spent time creating some art work. This value of ‘visual learning’ stuck with me and inspired by my talented co-artist big brother, Liam, I started experimenting with stop-motion animations to try and engage people during scientific presentations for my Masters degree! These opened the door to an internship at the British Ecological Society creating stop-motion animations and artwork to raise awareness for conservation issues. It feels as though I have found something of a calling!
Beavers swam into view as a perfect subject for this kind of treatment because of their conservation story. Apart from their extraordinary adaptations as a mammal to a life aquatic, their contribution to the restoration of our rivers is so important and could make a significant difference to British landscapes, creating habitats to support other wildlife, reducing risk of flooding and extreme droughts, even having an impact on global issues by absorbing carbon and helping to mitigate climate change. Raising awareness of such a keystone species seems a no brainer.
With my artist’s beret on, I see this animal as the original Capability Brown landscape artist. Just as his landscapes were designed to be seen from a painter’s viewpoint, the beaver’s aquatic habitat is one I wanted to explore with my paintbrush. I loved painting the beautiful, soothing colours and textures of the water, the foliage and wildlife. The sounds of the countryside, flowing water and birds chirping conjure peaceful and tranquil feelings – something we could all do with in these unsettling times.
I am hopeful my animation will help people learn about beavers and why we should welcome them back with open arms. I am keen that my work and other collaborations between scientist and artist can spread the love for nature and inspire others to take action to protect it.*
See Lauren’s animation, “Beavers, Nature’s Ecosystem Engineers” here: https://lodge.beavertrust.org/media-hub/
(*This blog is written by an independent writer. Beaver Trust welcomes a breadth of opinions, and those expressed within this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Beaver Trust.)
Lauren is a PhD student at the Natural History Museum in London studying molecular ecology. Alongside her studies, Lauren is a freelance artist. She combines her interests in art and the natural world for science communication, specialising in animations to raise conservation awareness
#beavers #beaverbelievers #beavolution
© Lauren Cook 2020.