University of Aberdeen Residency -
Poetry, Art, Music and Marine Biology
An exciting arts-science collaboration with marine biologists from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Sciences. I’m taking inspiration from research into marine mammals and seabirds to develop creative outputs integrating poetry, spoken word, audio and video.
I’m engaging with two main fieldwork projects: the long-term study into breeding fulmars on the uninhabited island of Eynhallow in Orkney, and the passive acoustic monitoring work in and around offshore wind farm sites in the North Sea.
I spent time on the uninhabited island of Eynhallow in Orkney, observing and assisting the fieldwork team as they did their annual survey of nesting birds. I was struck by the quiet, stoic nature of the fulmar compared to other seabirds, they way they nest on bare ledges of rock, how effortlessly they fly.
I loved how spending time on the island, with no hot water or television, made us all more in tune with the natural processing going on around us. I became very aware of when the sun rose and set each day, which direction the wind was blowing, what the tide and swell were doing. I felt that if you stayed on Eynhallow long enough, you'd somehow become Eynhallow.
This was the inspiration for the first poem I wrote upon returning, which went on to inform the sequence for which I won The Moth Nature Writing Prize in 2022.
In a vessel called Waterfall, we voyaged East from Caithness, way out offshore, to the Beatrice wind farm. Here the team are conducting mointoring work on bottlenose dolphin and porpoises, by deploying underwater acoustic recording devices. As well as C-PODs, which measure instances of cetacean clicks, the scientists also have hydrophone recordings of dolphin vocalisations, which include echolocation clicks, whistles, buzzes and brays.
These sounds formed the basis of an EP I released with composer Lucie Treacher, which weaves the underwater field recordings with spoken word, saxophone, flute, human whistling and a choir of children from Cromarty primary school.