Seaweed research collaborations meet dance

20 September 2023

On the 7th September at the The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Innogen co-director Professor Niki Vermeulen, geographer Dr Marion Maisonobe and choreographer Brendan Le Delliou used the medium of dance to convey how international collaborations in seaweed research are forged.

The event was part of the RSE’s summer event series, Curious, a two-week series of free talks, workshops, tours, and exhibitions by Scotland’s leading experts to engage the public with their work in new ways.

As part of the Scottish-French RSE Saltire project, Geographies of Scientific Collaboration, Vermeulen and Maisonobe at the CNRS in Paris have been analysing the connections between seaweed researchers and marine research institutes in Scotland and France. With the help of Brendan Le Delliou, founder of the dance group, Frichti Concept, they have translated their research into performance art.

Their debut performance at the RSE introduced the audience to Ectocarpus, a model organism for the brown algae, which has recently attracted a lot of research interest due to its remarkable ability to absorb carbon dioxide and counteract global warming. Through clever use of audiovisuals and movement, they portrayed the establishment of both historic and current collaborations between Ectocarpus researchers in Scotland, France and beyond. These ‘geographies of collaboration’ are important because they can determine how practices and discourses of scientific disciplines co-emerge and can have implications for policy making, in terms of capacity building and international relationships.

The group plan to continue exploring ways to engage wider audiences with their work and further develop their performance for the forthcoming Edinburgh Science Festival.

It was an exciting new experience to work with a choreographer to translate our knowledge on collaboration into dance. The creative experiment really furthered our insights into interactions and movements in unexpected ways. We were all a bit nervous for our first performance, and delighted by the positive reactions of the audience. The next performance is at La Fête de la Science in Paris and we hope to be back in Edinburgh for the Science Festival in April,” says Prof. Vermeulen, Innogen co-director and Personal Chair of Research Collaboration, School of Social and Political Science, The University of Edinburgh.