Capturing Ecology: Hidden Worlds Exhibition – Ulster Museum

For six busy weeks at Ulster Museum in Belfast, our ‘Capturing Ecology: Hidden Worlds’ exhibition revealed the ingenious methods used to uncover the complexity of the natural world.

NVTV Belfast

Combining wildlife photography from our Capturing Ecology competition, digital displays, and interactive installations, this vibrant exhibition was seen by thousands of visitors.

The curated content centred around the research of BES members and particularly highlighted how modern technology is revolutionising ecology, revealing unknown aspects of the natural world. From camera trapping and drone surveillance displays to radio-transmitters on wasps and ultraviolet fluorescing beetles, the array of high-tech and sometimes strange methodologies certainly intrigued viewers.

Thermal imaging cameras attached to drones have been used to spot poachers in the field and mobilise response teams. You can see on the left hand image, humans' thermal signatures are easier to spot when contrasted against cooler ground earlier in the day. Dr Claire Burke and Liverpool John Moores University

A series of bespoke video installations provided by BES member Ed Hall of MacroPro Photography featured the beautiful and exquisite detailing of invertebrates. Through animating his composite macro photography consisting of thousands of individual images of a single specimen, Ed’s work highlights the value of digitising museum collections to protect them for future research. Combined with the ability to get hands-on with an interactive microscope and a range of invertebrate specimens, visitors were able to appreciate the hidden beauty of often overlooked creatures.

The exhibition was also brought to life by our team of demonstrators, sharing their knowledge and items  ranging from iridescent marine molluscs to giant 3D-printed pollen grains. BES member Tessa Driessen and her team brought meter long soil cores from Wales to reveal the hidden diversity of nature and complex history recorded within them.

As a palaecologist I look at mud that is several hundred years old, and it has so much to tell. My research can tell so many stories that happened, and it can be absolutely stunning.

– Tessa Driessen, BES member

Our demonstrating team during Northern Ireland Science Festival British Ecological Society

The exhibition also asked visitors to think of the connections we each have with nature and the issues affecting the environment both globally and locally. By writing and attaching their thoughts to the structure of the exhibition itself, we discovered that most feel connected to nature by simply being outside. Many also highlighted their own efforts to protect their local environment, from leaving weeds in their garden for wildlife, to conducting plastic cleanups in forests and the seaside.

When we go to the beach we don’t leave until after we pick up 10 bits of rubbish each.
– anonymous

The exhibition asked visitors to identify their 'Hidden Connections' to nature and add them to the board British Ecological Society

Developed in partnership with National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI) and coinciding with the Northern Ireland Science Festival and British Science Week, Head of Audience Development at NMNI, Aaron Ward, said “We want to use our space to give people a chance to find out what they can do and what we can do together to protect our natural environment. Hopefully people can take a few ideas home with them to see what they can do to benefit the environment and the issues facing themselves and the wider world”.

Capturing Ecology competition winning image 'Why did the sloth cross the road' by Andrew Whitworth Andrew Whitworth and British Ecological Society

We thank our team of wonderful demonstrators, National Museums Northern Ireland for their partnership in delivering this exhibition, and to Northern Ireland Science Festival and Queens University Belfast for their support.

The BES brings its exhibitions around the UK and aims to form partnerships with festival organisers, public venues, and allied environmental organisations to share the excitement and importance of ecological science to diverse audiences. Please get in touch with if such a partnership would be of interest to you!