Our water bodies are degrading and it is happening fast. As marine scientists, we work on understanding these environments and furthering knowledge for effective management of our coasts and Ocean. However, it is important, particularly with the fast pace of change, that we find creative ways to expand understanding and engagement beyond our specific discipline. We must creatively connect with economists, sociologists, psychologists and artists to problem solve, and in doing so, deepen our connections with water.

We talk about the different oceans as if they are somehow separate from each other, but they are actually just one large, interconnected body of water - The Ocean. This means that our actions in one area of the coast or Ocean may be felt and shared by others all around the world.

There is evidence that art enhances understanding of technical subject matters in science. Connecting Shoals is an exhibition which explores how art can enhance understanding and engagement with science, specifically the coast and Ocean. Through this exhibition, we will collect data to understand the effectiveness of art and our exhibition in engaging local communities with the issues affecting The Ocean and our scientific research.

We aim to create emotional connections and empower local communities and young people to feel connected and conscious of coastal and marine environmental issues through active engagement with the exhibition.

As an island country, the UK has so much wild and beautiful coastline, yet many people do not feel connected to it. Essex has one of the longest coastlines of any county in England, with over 350 miles of beautiful beaches, picturesque villages and vibrant towns. We hope this exhibition inspires connection with the coast and Ocean, to wonder at our waters, shoals and shores, and spend more time enjoying our precious coastal environment.

This exhibition purposely coincides with the FSBI 2023 International Symposium Fish Habitat Ecology in a Changing Climate held 24 to 28 July at the University of Essex. This is the largest fisheries conference in the UK, and we welcome over 200 scientists from 24 countries for this 5-day event. We hope this exhibition sparks exciting new conversations and creative art-science collaborations with visiting scientists.

The exhibition showcases the work of three artists: Lucy MacBrayne and Jane Stewart (both local artists), and INSTAR, as well as artwork from local school children (selected through an art competition!).

Lucy MacBrayne is a mixed media artist who uses collage, painting, mark-making, and printing to create abstract, colourful and textured pieces. Nature is her “go to” inspiration as it never disappoints and never runs out – it is perfectly imperfect, just like life. There are no such things as mistakes, only happy accidents and it allows her freedom to create amazing effects with beautiful layers and texture.

In 2022, Lucy attended a University of Essex field trip as artist in residence with our hosts Archipelagos: The Institute of Marine Conservation in the beautiful Aegean Sea, Greece. Taking part in four studies - Marine Mammals, Seagrass, Marine Plastics and Fisheries, Lucy created colourful and energetic work. We are excited to work with Lucy again as our Artist in Residence for the FSBI 2023 International Symposium.

Jane Stewart is an award-winning visual artist and storyteller based on the Essex coast. Her work is rooted in nature, especially the oceans, bodies of water and our relationship with them. She uses natural materials or materials from waste. She is an advocate of small but mighty interventions that change our relationship with nature.

Instar are a Nottingham based duo who produce multi-disciplinary artwork inspired by the natural world. They have just completed a project in Jaywick, Essex titled ARKADE, where they took a journey to discover The Ocean, shining a light on the wonder beneath the waves, exploring the impact of climate change and rising sea levels for local communities. Our exhibition showcases some of this work, taking inspiration from the array of lights, colours and sounds found in seafront amusements, ARKADE ignites the imagination for the environment and coastal life.

Please come along and enjoy this free exhibition to connect to your coast and Ocean: Connecting Shoals, Monday 24 to Friday 28 July, 12noon to 6pm.