Ecological Reflections

Ecological Reflections is a network of sites dedicated to long-term, collaborative science and art inquiry into particular sites of great ecological or cultural importance.

These sites range across the country, from the hardwood forests of New England to the old growth forests of the Oregon Cascades; from the river-of-grass Everglades to the temperate lakes of Northern Wisconsin. Mirroring the diversity of sites is the diversity of programs that reflect upon the scientific, artistic, and cultural facets and legacies of these sites.

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METAMORPHS: Artists Spin Science

Monday, April 2, 2012, 6-9pm, Hyde Hall, Institute of Arts and Humanities, University Room, UNC, Chapel Hill

Free and open to the public.


  • Brandon Ballengée: Praeter Naturam: Beyond Nature
  • Jane D. Marsching: The Field Research Impulse
  • Marina Zurkow: Agency, Intimacy & Ambience


  • Courtney Fitzpatrick, Field Biologist, Duke University
  • Duncan Murrell, Contributing Editor to Harper’s Magazine, Writer in Residence, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University
  • David Richardson, Epidemiologist, UNC-CH
  • Amy White, Artist and Art Writer, UNC-CH
  • Barry Saunders, Physician and Anthropologist, UNC-CH

Organized and moderated by Professor + Artist elin o’Hara slavick

Artist and biologist Brandon Ballengée creates trans-disciplinary artworks inspired from his ecological field investigation and laboratory research. Since 1996, a central focus has been the occurrence of developmental deformities and population declines among amphibians. In 2009, Ballengée and SK Sessions published “Explanation for Missing Limbs in Deformed Amphibians” in the Journal of Experimental Zoology and received international media attention. This scientific investigation was the inspiration for works in a recent solo exhibition at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London. Other recent solo exhibitions were held at: Parco Arte Vivente, Centro d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin; Nowhere Gallery, Milan; The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, NY; Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale; and the Shrewsbury Museum in Shropshire, England (the birth city of Charles Darwin). His works have been included in several biennales including: Geumgang Nature Art Biennale, 2004, South Korea; Venice Biennale, 2005, Italy; Biennale for Electronic Arts Perth, 2007, Australia; 3rd Moscow Biennale; and Prospect 2 New Orleans, 2011.

He is co-founding an urban ecology laboratory in his Manhattan art studio and finalizing his Ph.D. through a collaborative program between the University of Plymouth, England and Hochschule für Gestaltung in Zürich, Switzerland. Three recent books have debuted on Ballengée’s projects: Malamp: The Occurrence of Deformities in Amphibians  (Arts Catalyst & Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK); Praeter Naturam (Parco Arte Vivente, Centro d’Arte Contemporanea, Italy); From Scales to Feathers (Lafayette College, USA, Shrewsbury Museum, UK & Verkebe Gallery, Belgium).

Digital media artist Jane D. Marsching explores the past, present and future human impact on the environment through interdisciplinary and collaborative practices, including video installations, virtual landscapes, dynamic websites, and data visualizations.   Her current work mines Thoreau’s many observations of seasonal plant and animal life at Walden Pond to consider the impact of climate shifts on this landscape at the heart of the American imagination of all that is nature.

Recent exhibitions include: Galerie Lucy Mackintosh, Lausanne, Switzerland; the ICA Boston; MassMoCA; and the San Jose Museum of Art, CA. She has received grants from Creative Capital, LEF Foundation, Artadia and Artists Resource Trust. Recent publications include: Far Field: Digital Culture, Climate Change and the Poles, edited with Andrea Polli, (Intellect 2011); BiPolar (Cornerhouse 2008), Gothic (Whitechapel Press, London, 2008), and S&F Online: Gender on Ice (Barnard College, 2008). With Mark Alice Durant in 2005, she curated The Blur of the Otherworldly: Contemporary Art, Technology, and the Paranormal, at The Center for Art and Visual Culture, Baltimore, MD; a catalog of the exhibition was published in 2006 with essays by Marsching, Durant, Marina Warner and Lynne Tillman.  She is also a cofounder and member of Platform2: Art and Activism, an experimental forum series about creative practices at the intersection of social issues. (

 Marina Zurkow makes media works about humans and their relationships to animals, plants and the weather. By turns humorous and contemplative, these take the form of animation, drawings and print graphics, and participatory temporary public art works. The series Crossing the Waters focused on climate change; a contemplation on catastrophe, it pictured ways in which we imagine nature within us, and nature without us. Friends and Enemies (which includes Mesocosm and Heraldic Crests for Invasive Species) mines the intersection of bias, inclusion, and kinship in our relations with other species in the midst of altered or depleted landscapes. Friends and Enemies includes dinners and tastings, lectures, animations, and printed materials.

Since 2000, Zurkow has exhibited at The Sundance Film Festival, The Rotterdam Film Festival, The Seoul Media City Biennial, Ars Electronica, Creative Time, The Kitchen, The Walker Art Center, The National Museum for Women in the Arts, Eyebeam, and other venues. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, and has been a NYFA Fellow, a Rockefeller New Media Fellow, and a Creative Capital grantee. Zurkow is on faculty at NYU’s Interactive Technology Program, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

For more information, please contact elin o’Hara slavick, 919-923-4550 or

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This blog notes art. biology. creativity. science. design. nature. as inspirations.  A post discussing the journal Ecohealth’s art competition includes some gorgeous images.


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Studying Nature’s Rhythms: Soundscape Ecologists Spawn New Field

Geophony. Biophony. Anthrophony.

Unfamiliar words. But they shouldn’t be. We’re surrounded by them morning, noon and night, say ecologist Bryan Pijanowski of Purdue University and colleagues.

The evening “singing” of frogs. Burbling brooks, breaking waves and the whistling wind. Planes, trains and automobiles.

Biophony is the music created by organisms like frogs and birds; geophony, the composition of non-biological sounds like wind, rain and thunder; and anthrophony, the conglomeration of noise from humans.

What they add up to is a cacophony–a mix of sounds made by the environment, and by people; a background to which most have become tone-deaf.

“Another word for it is ‘soundscape,'” says Pijanowski.

He and colleagues are leading an effort to spawn a new field called soundscape ecology. It uses “nature’s music” to understand the ecological characteristics of a landscape. It also reconnects people with Earth-sounds.

For the full article, see the NSF website.

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The Biodiversity Project

Joel Sartore shows the face of biodiversity and the threat extinction poses to our world. One species portrait at a time.



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The fungal-fantastical

Mycologist Paul Stamets wants us to understand the fungal-fantastical if we are to save the world:

Mushroom mycelium represents rebirth, rejuvenation, regeneration. Fungi generate soil, that gives life. The task that we face today is to understand the language of nature.

My mission is to discover the language of nature of the fungal networks that communicate with the ecosystem. And I, in particular believe nature is intelligent. The fact that we lack the language skills to communicate with nature does not impugn the concept that nature is intelligent, it speaks to our inadequacy of our skill-set for communication.

We have now learned that there are these languages that are occurring in communication between each organism. If we don’t get our act together and come in commonality and understanding with the organisms that sustain us today, not only will we destroy those organisms, but we will destroy ourselves.

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A tree falls in the forest and DOES make a sound

“Audible arboreal sound” courtesy of German designer Bartholomäus Traubeck, a modified turntable, a Playstation Eye Camera, a stepper motor, and Ableton Live software.

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NYC Environmental Theater Festival Accepting Submissions

We make theater for a cause …

The Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, New York’s premiere eco-friendly theatre festival, is currently accepting submissions for it’s 2012 season. The festivity accepts all topics and subject matters including but not limited to: new works, musicals, adaptations, one-acts, revivals, improv groups, staged readings, dance pieces, devised work and solo shows. For details please visit our website at Deadline for submissions is JANUARY 27, 2012!

The Festivity fosters a diverse cross-section of performances, and seeks to inspire artists and audiences both creatively and fundamentally, in a festive atmosphere. At the heart of the festivity are like-minded individuals striving to create professional, meaningful theatre, while supporting organizations, which give back to the community at large.

The Festivity runs June 1rst-24th at the Bleecker Street Theaters, Gene Frankel and Roberts Moss.

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Alexander Calder And Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy at the Nasher Museum

February 16 – June 17, 2012

This exhibition pairs 34 masterworks by Alexander Calder with the work of seven contemporary artists whose practices are bound to Calder’s legacy as modern sculptor.

Relevance to the environment is seen in reuse of materials by Calder and the other artists.

See the Nasher website for more information.


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Resource Rich. Life Poor.

Iberia Quarries # 8 shows Cochicho Company in the process of mining for minerals in Pardais, Portugal, in 2006.

Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s large-format photographs show how industrial development is restructuring terrains across the world. On his web site Burtynsky says,

“These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet set us into an uneasy contradiction.”

Check out a slide show of Burtynsky’s images in Scientific American.

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