Lancaster University: Morecambe Bay Timescapes: engaging young people in visualising coastal futures

Local high school and college students will work with Lancaster University researchers in design, computing, and environmental science to create visualisations of local coastal ‘pasts and futures’.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) have today announced a series of investments that will encourage 14 to 18-year-olds to engage with and contribute to important climate research.

The funding will enable a team led by Dr Serena Pollastri (ImaginationLancaster) to work with Dr Liz Edwards (School of Computing and Communications) and Dr Suzana Ilic and Joseph Earl (Lancaster Environment Centre) with students from Carnforth High School, Morecambe Bay Academy, Our Lady’s Catholic College, Lancaster, and Lancaster and Morecambe College.

Current predictions all show the significant impact that sea level rise and extreme weather events will have on coastal areas worldwide.

However, what exactly will happen to individual coastal communities will vary greatly, and will largely depend on local geology, climate, infrastructures and community preparedness.

The visualisations will be displayed during ‘Coast Fest’, a Coast Futures Festival as site-specific installations, allowing the public to look at their surroundings through the lenses of costal change.

They will reveal stories, questions, and images co-produced by researchers and young people, based on data collected in the first stage of the project, through citizen science and stories from the past and lived experience approaches.

A series of zines/booklets will tell data-driven stories of possible coastal futures. Each zine will include a reel with visualisations produced by the students.

The visualisations in these reels, which use similar technology used in the old 3D View Master system, will present possible futures for specific locations along the bay.

“Collecting localised data and making it readable to the public is essential both to understand the impact of climate change in specific places and to inform local policies and public participation in decision making,” explains the project’s Principal Investigator Dr Pollastri.

“This project aims to help young people understand the interactions between data that describe the dynamics that will shape the future of Morecambe Bay and the communities that inhabit it.

“By bringing together measurable data and personal histories, this project will reflect on different ways to build community preparedness to future environmental challenges.”

In November, the UK will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) international summit in Glasgow.

This investment from UKRI and AHRC will mark this historic occasion and support the objectives of COP26 including helping communities adapt to the impact of climate change and collaborating to champion voices of communities not usually heard in climate discussion.

Each of the funded projects will take place between September and December to coincide with COP26 and contribute to the national and global discourse on climate change at this time.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Tackling climate change is an endeavour which must include all age groups across society and connect communities around the world. I look forward to seeing the fruition of this inspiring COP26 initiative that will channel the fresh ideas, energy and creativity of teenagers across the globe into our fight against climate change”.

AHRC Executive Chair Professor Christopher Smith said: “If we are going to come together as a global community to address the climate crisis, we need to ensure that people from all ages and walks of life are engaged with this crucial issue.

“These investments are a testament to the ability of the creative arts, theatre and storytelling to bring complex issues to life, and to bring people together.

“Young people have a particular stake in this because it is their future that is at risk. “Their engagement in and creative contribution to these activities will lead to a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the need to work towards a more sustainable future.”

UKRI Head of Public Engagement Tom Saunders said: “UKRI is keen to support researchers and innovators to engage with young people on crucial issues like climate change. “These investments will establish a dialogue between the research and innovation community and the public that will bring underrepresented voices into the climate debate and provide valuable insights into young people’s views on climate change.

“They will help to ensure that the future of climate research is informed by a diverse range of people and foster a more inclusive research and innovation system.”