Love our Bogs
“Love our Bogs!” was created by Christian Dunn and Holly McKelvey and explores the immense value of protecting Peatlands to combat climate warming, and our need for positive connections between ourselves, cities and peatland habitats. Find out just how valuable Peatlands are in the artwork and why in our interview with Holly and Christian below:
Location: Frieburg, Germany
Style: I work using mixed media, blending analogue with digital and my inspiration comes from the textures and colours of the natural world.
Q: People don’t often associate urban areas and peatlands together. Can you tell us a bit more about how your artwork tries to challenge this?
A: Our artwork envisions a green future in which the connection between city and peatland is much more strongly felt. Right now when we think of carbon storage and fighting climate change, we think of protecting rainforests—what we don’t realise is that by protecting the peatlands here in our own landscapes, we are protecting landscapes that are just as (if not more!) valuable in terms of carbon storage. We envision urban installations that both remind people of their nearby peatlands (murals, peat cores encased in plexiglass and standing like sculptures in open spaces) as well as point the way (cycle and hiking routes); and in the peatlands we envision accessible boardwalks and spaces that allow people to truly immerse themselves in their surroundings.
Q: As a self described scientist-turned-illustrator, what was your approach to this project?
A: My background in ecology and geosciences, including time spent in peatlands, has impressed upon me the incredible importance of protecting our natural spaces—including our access to them. The more engaged people are with the landscapes they inhabit, the more effectively they can be stewards of them. But achieving this level of engagement requires communication, it requires accessibility, and most of all, it requires building bridges.
- I’ve been working on two book projects this past year! The first, “Valuing Nature: The Roots of Transformation”, is a graphic novel style textbook written by Rob Fish and illustrated by myself. It follows a group of university students as they explore the definition of nature and the various frameworks used to describe our relationship to nature. The book will be coming out on July 29th, and can be pre-ordered here.
- The second book, provisionally “Conversations with Woodlands”, is a graphic novel exploring people’s relationship to woodlands across the four seasons. The book has been put together from a series of workshops where participants were invited to take walks out in the woods and document what they noticed and felt, then engage in discussion after. We’ve compiled funny, moving, nostalgic, and playful bits of the transcript to create the book, which I am in the process of illustrating now. Hopefully out later this year!
Dr Christian Dunn
Job: Senior Lecturer
Organisation: Bangor University
Location: Bangor, Wales
Bio: I’m a researcher and lecturer in wetland science – in particular wetland ecology, peatland biogeochemistry, carbon sequestration and the use of constructed treatment wetlands. I get to spend my time wading around wetlands in different parts of the world and studying how vital these ecosystems are for our wildlife, our modern lives and even our climate.
Q: You’ve previously described wetlands as ’nature’s superheroes’. What makes these habitats so special?
A: Peatlands are our most important terrestrial carbon stores. They store carbon for glacial time periods in the semi-decomposed organic “goo” that makes up the peat-soil of our bogs and fens. They also help keep our drinking water clean, can help control flooding events, and can be some of the last pockets of wilderness we have. Couple all that with the fact peatlands can be teeming with unique and rare wildlife and it really is no surprise that I call them nature’s superheroes.
Q: What parts of your research into wetland ecology made it into the final artwork?
A: The artwork shows people that our bogs and fens, our peatlands, are not remote, bleak, unwelcoming places. Instead they are fantastic, climate-saving superheroes of the natural world. Walk on a bog and you are walking on a powerhouse of carbon capture and storage – you can almost feel it humming with industrial-like activity! You’re also walking on a secret time-capsule: pull out a core of peat and you are looking at the remains of plants that were growing thousands of years ago. You can touch a plant that was growing during the Battle of Hastings, or just after the last Ice Age – this was one of the concepts that we wanted to weave into the piece. We want people to realise that bogs are stunning places, but the real beauty of them is underneath your feet, and they affect the lives of each and everyone of us.
Q: What can people do to help their local peatlands?
A: Love our bogs. Simple as that! Go and walk in a bog, go and get a wet wellie in a bog. Appreciate the beauty of these climate-saving security vaults of carbon. Oh, and don’t buy peat-based composts. The government is banning its sale in a few years but don’t wait for that – stop buying it NOW.
- I am currently involved in a number of projects on wetland and peatland restoration and management – both in the UK and abroad. Some of my work on peatlands looks at ways of super-charging their ability to sequester carbon by naturally manipulating decomposition rates.
- My other major research focus is looking at microplastics in our water systems and how they can be monitored and potentially removed. As part of this, I am working on the UK’s biggest citizen science project to map the presence of microplastics in our inland waters.
- Alongside my research, I am an active environmental campaigner and science communicator. You can keep updated on my work via my twitter at @Christiandunn
Future Green Spaces Virtual Exhibition
You can check out the final masterpiece and all the other brilliant artworks via our virtual gallery overlooking Edinburgh’s iconic Arthur’s Seat, You can the exhibition and all other BES online events (from an ecology-themed comedy night and draw-alongs to insect decline debates) on the BES Edinburgh Science Festival event hub here.
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