Imagining the measure of change: Art, science and the estuary community

The Imagining the measure of change project is exploring art-science-stakeholder perspectives on the knowledge and understanding of environmental change in the context of estuary landscape environmental governance. The project is developing an integrated research network, which connects people and action to examine and share the concept of change as a mechanism to support estuary management decision-making.

Our project focuses on an inclusive and holistic approach to land use decision-making, using a case study site of the Deben estuary, Suffolk, where we are working in collaboration with the local stakeholder participatory network, the Deben Estuary Partnership (DEP), as they progress a new estuary management strategy over the next two years. Our project will provide a forum for participation, collaboration and conversation around key issues concerning the changes in the estuary landscape and its communities.

Principal Investigator Simon Read introduces the project in this short video

We had planned a specific set of events to facilitate a network of action, drawing information together and enabling the production of material evidence of change. The Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated significant changes to our project delivery, particularly given the uncertainty of lockdown relaxation and the nature of post-Covid life.

Although much of what we had planned cannot take place in the way that we envisaged, the lock-down period has provided time and space to reflect further on what can be achieved in different ways.

Crucially, the physical landscape that we are engaging with, and want to understand and examine, offers multiple open settings that can accommodate variants of the workshops we had planned. Over the next two years, we will deliver a series of field-sited meetings to discuss and experience different aspects of change – physical, cultural, societal – in the estuary landscape.

Although we have launched our project online, and already have a small following, we are taking the opportunity in September 2020 to bring the project to the community by hosting a week-long informal exhibition within an open gallery space, local to the Deben estuary.

This provides the opportunity to bring a range of different knowledges and contexts together, and make direct connections with the local community and engage them in interdisciplinary reflection on changing estuarine landscapes. Supported by our online presence, we will promote ongoing discussion of the questions and issues that arise.

A key component of our project has always been to engage the community and stakeholders in their own enquiry to explore changing landscapes, and this will be managed through a series of independent, personal projects that capture different aspects of estuary change.