January 2019

Ensemble Team trip to the Met Office Informatics Lab and the Eden Project.

At the end of November, the Ensemble Team had a trip to the South West of England to visit the Met Office Informatics Lab in Exeter and the Eden Project in Cornwall.

After a long train journey, the Team spent the afternoon on 28 November learning about the exciting and innovative work at the Informatics Lab. We learned about the data science approaches being trialled to mitigate against the challenges that will face the industry when data accumulation outpaces hardware evolution. Our hosts also showed prototype devices designed to make weather data more responsive to the needs of different stakeholders. It was exciting to see the variety of work undertaken by a team using cross-disciplinary skills.

We then went to Cornwall to spend 29 and 30 November at the Eden Project.

After arrival, we walked around the outside garden areas and viewed the sculptures until it started to rain heavily.     

We retreated into the Rainforest Biome to experience the world’s tropical rainforest environments. Some members of the team braved the canopy walkway and many climbed up the steps to the viewing platform at the top of the Biome.     

This Biome contains an impressive variety of plants, including many edibles – cacao, bananas and pineapples. The Orchid House provided a burst of colour, and we were surprised to see birds in the Biome too – the Roul-Roul partridges from Malaysia.          

Next we went into the Mediterranean Biome before visiting the Invisible Worlds exhibition in The Core building, where we were transfixed by the new ‘∞ Blue’ ceramic sculpture, a 9m tall ceramic cyanobacteria which kept sending out smoke rings.   

 

We learned about the development of Eden, from the disused china clay pit through the development and creation of the soil, and the succession of plants over time. We also discovered how the Biome environments are sustained, how the climates are monitored and manipulated and how pests and diseases are mitigated. Perhaps most relevant and interesting for the Ensemble project, was learning about Eden’s interpretation strategy to engage the visitors with the science and environmental issues.

Our behind the scenes tour revealed the Eden philosophy in action and illustrated how design decisions were made in respect of the use of digital technologies, and collaborations with local artists. Through presentations we learned more about the process of research and synthesis that led to the development of exhibits and combine arts, sciences and embodied experiences.

It was fascinating to hear about the ongoing academic research at the Eden Project including soils research and diverse projects for tropical climates that are undertaken through the cross-institute Rainforest Research Group.

One of the connecting threads between the teams at the MET Office Informatics Lab and the Eden Project is the highly interdisciplinary approach. It was inspiring and encouraging to see the impact and value of a commitment to this way of working.

The Eden Project team were amazing hosts and we held a very interesting discussion about the proposed ‘Eden North’ project in Morecambe Bay. Plans for this have recently been unveiled and the project aims to connect people with natural changes in Morecambe Bay.  There are some areas of overlap with the work of Ensemble, such as the ‘Cockles, Birds and Sands’ project which aims to bring together digital technologies and information visualisation to tell data-driven stories of encounters between cockles, oystercatchers, and sands in Morecambe Bay.

We would like to thank all our hosts at the Informatics Lab and the Eden Project, who all made it a very interesting and enjoyable trip!