Survival Strategies: Research (pt 7)

Indirect Connection/Support: Detritus and Death

A robin took advantage of some crumbs that had fallen from my lunch @ Eden Project, 09/2019

There is a lot of support indirectly and perhaps unconsciously given to the world around us. In Eden I witnessed a Robin picking up crumbs that I had just swept from my knee during a quick lunch in the woods.

The pinnacle of unintended support and connection comes after death. Our bodies return to the earth and can support other lifeforms.

But this is not the only way dead lifeforms can support the living. Humans make various use of dead lifeforms as raw materials for construction, and other supportive functions for life.

A tree stump is being used as a literal support for the bending trunk of a living one.
A Cistacae plant grown twisted around and supported by a wooden post.

Survival Strategies: Research (pt 6)

Direct Connection/Support: Family

Across much of the animal kingdom, family connections are strong and a source of great support especially through the juvenile stage. For mammals this is especially strong during pregnancy and in the nursing stage.

A young family touring the Rainforest biome in Eden project, 09/2019
A juvenile gull pesters it’s parent to feed it in Mevagissey harbour, 09/2019
Hand casts in the wall of the Core at Eden project, 09/2019

Survival Strategies: Research (pt 5)

Direct Connection/Support: Bees

Bees are a support system in themselves – providing vital pollination to plantlife, and nourishing animals like humans in turn.

A bee on a flower at Eden Project, 09/2019

While reflecting on the importance of the support from bees, it is unsurprising that a honeycomb structure was chosen for the iconic biomes at the Eden project – where they aspire to be connecting us. The delicate structure appears bubble-like from the outside, with the tesselated structure dominant all across the heavens inside.

The Eden Project biomes, 09/2019
Internal biome dome study, pencil on paper 09/2019

Survival Strategies: Research (pt 4)

Direct Connection/Support: Lichen

Lichens are interesting to the idea of inter-connectedness and support for several reasons:

  • Lichens are communities of fungi, algae and other bacteria which support each other – fungi provide a home and minerals, algae convert sunlight to food.
  • Lichens can survive in all kinds of hostile conditions – on mountain tops, the coast, tropical forests and limestone pores under the ice in Antarctica
  • Many birds use lichen for nest building to help them camouflage
  • Some insects such as Markia hystrix (a grasshopper in south america) live in and on lichen.

I observed various instances of lichen growing on other lifeforms around the Eden Project. I particularly like their textural contrast.

Pencil on paper sketch of lichen on tree branch stump 09/2019

Survival Strategies: Research (pt 3)

Besides the visual communications Eden themselves used to evoke inter-connectedness, I was interested to witness this survival strategy in action in the lifeforms in and around the site itself.

  • Lifeform directly supported by another lifeform: ‘symbiosis’
  • Lifeform supported indirectly by another lifeform e.g. benefiting from the death of another, or picking up scraps.

Direct Connection/Support: Epiphytes

Within the rainforest biome, I observed an interesting type of plant known as ‘epiphytes’ – ones that use other plants for support and do not themselves require soil, and are not parasitic.

Here some epiphytes growing off a tree trunk, fallen across the base of a waterfall in the Rainforest biome at Eden Project, 09/2019
Here another fallen trunk covered in epiphytes – here we can see the trunk is covered in moss and tendril-like roots

These plants are supported in a literal sense, as they are suspended in the air by the trunk on which they grow. That they grow on the trunk but are not parasites is particularly interesting. In both of these photographs I like how vibrant and full of energy the plants look, with their spiky forms and vivid green colours.

Epiphytes, Felt tip and pencil on paper, 09/2019
Study of epiphyte roots detail, pencil on paper 09/2019

Survival Strategies: Research (pt 1)

This week we took a trip to the Eden Project in Cornwall. Our brief was to research different survival strategies whilst we were there.

The mission statement of the Eden Project is:

To connect us with each other and the living world, exploring how we can work towards a better future.

In doing so, they hope to combat ‘plant blindness’, which means that we do not realise the myriad ways in which our modern lives are inextricably linked with the natural world around us. From the food that we eat, to the clothes we wear, the medicines we survive by and materials we construct with, we neglect to consider how even most man-made products have in some way been produced using natural resources.

Their primary message is that of interconnectedness between us and the natural world (see below). The very way in which we survive at a total level is because of our place within a whole – we rely on the support of other lifeforms/systems. This interconnection/support system is the ultimate survival strategy which I wanted to explore further.