This project is going to follow my journey exploring my themes: my themes are Science, and Nature, and both are very close to my heart. I am going to present my work as an exhibition, with a display of my written work and some extra relevancies surrounding that. For example, to utilise my photography experience, I will go out to photograph birds, and stick that on the display with my piece about nature. I have chosen these topics because Nature has always inspired me, and I feel as though I have a connection with it. There’s something calming and motivating about the way nature continues on through all situations. My second topic is science because science is an extremely useful pathway for me and my desire to understand the world around me. Science and nature go hand in hand because there are so many examples of each within each other. We understand how plants grow through science, and we understand the science because someone saw the beauty of a plant and wanted to study nature. For my medium I will be exploring memoir writing, because I have been told that my writing style is very similar and that it might be both interesting and beneficial for me to research and attempt that style of writing. For my research into memoirs I am going to read other people’s and listen to interviews with people who wrote extremely popular memoirs. For my topic research, I am going to find a range of sources and perform both qualitative and quantitative research. This will include interviewing people on what science and nature means to them, observing wildlife, flora, and natural processes myself, and watching a variety of scientific documentaries. The general sentiment of all questions in both my surveys and my interviews will be “How much of an impact do you feel science and nature has on your life?” and as I am researching memoirs as my medium, my sub question is “What is a memoir and why are they popular at the moment?”.
For my Primary research, I intend to interview a range of people on what science and nature means to them. Ideally, I would be able to contact people with wildly different jobs, such as a farmer (there are a few farms near me), a bus driver, a gardener, maybe even a nurse. Having this wide range will allow me to have good variation in my answers, as they will all have different opinions, and so I can gather many perspectives. I may also gain an even wider range by creating and promoting my own surveys to see how people of different ages, genders, and occupations think. For secondary research I will be watching and listening to found footage of interviews, reading books from varying points of view, and using websites to aid me. The questions I hope to have answered with my research are: ‘What is the importance of both Nature and science in your life?’, ‘How would you like to contribute to science or nature?’, and as a bonus question ‘What do you think we could do to get more people on board with learning about science and nature?’. The quantitative aspect of my research will be using the results from my surveys and determining statistics with the data gathered.
The statistics I am most interested in knowing for my project are what the general age range for certain opinions will be, what the general occupation type will be, and what the participant’s other general areas of interest are. The qualitative side will be taking in visual media, like watching documentaries, and reading other peoples’ memoirs, and reading articles on the events in the science and nature backgrounds. The theory behind all my research types is to understand all parts of my project well. For example, using data to determine age ranges will allow me to see if there is a connection between being 18 – 25 and thinking that we need to plant more flowers, or being over 40 and enjoying birdwatching. There are strengths and weaknesses to every type of research. Surveys are good for easily collecting data and comparing it, but if your sample group isn’t big enough, then you won’t get good results. Interviewing people is a great opportunity to gain an insight into somebody’s thoughts, but there’s a risk that they might not give you any helpful information. My primary research techniques aren’t without their flaws either. It’s one thing to try to observe nature for myself, but I am not as knowledgeable as a botanist, and most wildlife won’t let you near them. Documentaries are the same, because while they are full of information, it is already condensed into just an hour or so. It would be tricky for me to simplify the facts even more without losing quality of content.
I used Survey monkey to create two surveys, Science and Nature part 1, and 2 respectively. I got 16 responses on my first survey, and fewer on my second, but that’s because I shared them separately, so the audience was not as wide. I still have enough responses to gain a good insight into the opinions of those around me. I will analyse the data and put it into a table, or some other method of displaying my findings. Another method that I think deserves a lot of focus is my interviews. They are obviously going to be very people central, so I will need to interview at least 3 people of different ages, gender, and occupation. I am even going to attempt to contact David Attenborough in hopes that I can use his wisdom for some part of my project. I want to contact a botanist, or at least someone with extensive knowledge of plants and their uses, someone who works and office job and doesn’t see much of the outdoors in a day to day situation, and someone very knowledgeable in matters of scientific development. I want this variety because I know each person will have had different experiences, and each will have varying degrees of involvement with either science, nature, or both.
Of all the data collected in my surveys, the most uneven distribution is found within the questions on age, education, and diet. In survey one, 62.5% of participants said they were between 10 and 18, 25% between 18 and 25, and only 12.5% said they were over 45. The occupation question showed that 87.5% of all participants were currently studying at school or college. One participant (6.25%) said they were employed, with one other saying they were both employed and did freelance work. The question of diet was a varied one, 64.29% of people said they followed an omnivorous diet, making them the majority, with vegetarianism landing in second place (with 21.43%). Only one participant chose pescetarianism. (7.14%). One person seemed to have misunderstood the question as they ticked ‘other’ and specified that they “Eat anything.” They will be counted with the omnivores, taking the total up to 71.43%.
Due to the way survey monkey works, I had to compress some questions into others. This makes interpreting the data for two of my questions difficult, but still achievable. I will choose the most relevant data from these questions. 38.46% of participants said that they agreed to science being a moderate part of their lives, while 58.33% of participants said that they did not think a large part of their lives revolved around science. 16.67% said they thought about science often. I asked the same of nature and wondered if more people would say nature had a big role in their lives than science. I was correct, as 27.27% said they saw nature as a large part of their life, with 58.33% saying they thought about nature often. This may be because the impact of science on our lives doesn’t show itself to be as obvious as nature, as we see nature every day the moment we step outside.
Of my sample pool, the three top hobbies were reading, some form of art, and socialising/doing something outside with friends and family. This highlights that I surveyed creative people, but also shows a wide range of interests, either for personal development or just enjoying their surroundings. When asked what science meant to them as individuals, I got some similar answers, and some very different answers. Not all were as helpful to my research as others were, but it was still interesting to gain an insight into how my participants see the world. The most detailed response I got was “That there is much more to the world than what we can see. Millions upon millions of undiscovered things and theories yet to be proven. To me science is beyond what I can comprehend, but it still interests me as much as simpler topics.” In contrast to this, the most simplistic answer I received was “Discovery”. Both of the participants who gave those answers we under 25. It seems that young people have more of an interest in science from the view of what we can discover, while older people see the value of science in what we have already discovered. This is shown as one of the 45+ participants spoke on how to them science meant “understanding and questioning the world we live in”.
I also asked what nature meant to the same people. One participant (45+) said that nature had always been a big part of their life, and for them it was a place of comfort, while another (under 18) said that they felt nature was an important aspect of day to day life, even for those who don’t pay much attention to it. This is an interesting finding to me because while I expected slightly more variation in opinions on science between the age ranges, you can still see the different perspectives. The younger participant recognised the importance of nature, and how it impacts us on the daily, and the older participant who had more life experiences felt a deeper, more personal connection. I thought there would be a more definitive divide, with only the older participants having positive and very forward ideas on nature, and the youngest being indifferent. It was nice to see that all my participants of every age at least had an enjoyment of nature. This just shows that different feelings form over time from different experiences with the world around them.
The final question of my first survey was “What do you think we could do to get more people into science” The answers were interesting an varied, because many of the people I surveyed said they’re interest/awareness of science first started in school, when they were young children. With the age difference in some of my participants, this was a good opportunity to see how the education of science had changed over the years, and how people thought we could improve further. One of the suggestions was that we make science education in school more relevant to current times. For example, teaching forensics at a time where there is a lot of talk about it in the news, or teaching meteorology during times of unpredictable weather. This was suggested by someone in the 18 to 25 age range. This was one of my favourite suggestions, and you can see within the answer that it came from someone young enough to still remember the way things were taught, but old enough to have some experience of the world and other methods of education. The 45+ participant who said they think about science often answered this question with another suggestion for the education system. They suggested that we “Make it more fun” and show young people how it is relevant to them. They also added that we should be putting more investment into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and maths) jobs and present young people with more apprenticeship opportunities in those fields. One person (10-18) thought about the way things would be long term. They believe if we interest children at a young age and get them really excited and intrigued by science, they are more likely to keep their interest as they grow older, and that in turn may lead to more people going into STEM courses and occupations.
I asked my survey takers how they would like to contribute to science, one said they would like to educate friends and family on all aspects of science, while another said, “All of the above”. This means that they would like to educate others, join a science association, become an organ donor, participate in medical trials, and become involved in STEM courses. The follow up to that question was ‘In which ways do you already contribute to science?’ to which one participant said they study environmental science courses and biology, while another said they weren’t sure they already contributed at all. These two participants were the same age, but from different locations, which only further proves that some areas have more things to do and get involved with in that field than others. If there was potential to in their local area, we know that the one who said they were unsure of their contributions would attend, as they had stated in the previous question.
When asked how they thought we could get more people into being passionate about nature, the people I asked said we should be including projects in local areas that show the impact of environmental issues that the target audience can relate to, and to just educate them. It was also mentioned that animals are a huge influential factor for many people, so the use of animals in education of the environment will be extremely effective and beneficial. I asked my participants how they would like to contribute to nature, both within their community and in general. The majority said that they would love to contribute to the creation of safe spaces for local wildlife. I asked in which ways they already contributed to nature too, one doing what they can to adapt their lifestyle to benefit the environment (becoming vegetarian and always recycling), while another physically participated in local projects that involve woodland creatures.
I conducted an interview of Robert Pickup, who is head of Animal and Land-Based studies. I asked him some questions about botany, and his thoughts and knowledge on how we use our natural world. The first thing I asked was ‘What do you think of the use of plants in medicine’ to this, he responded with:
“Plants in medicine are vital; they play such an important role and have done for millennia knowingly or unknowingly. Most physicians before the 19th century were considered herbalists as they utilised medicinal plants as they cures/remedies”.
He provided me with a link that I visited on the 1st of April 2021. It was a link to a ‘Smart news’ article about archiving old folk remedies and tradition medicine recipes. I asked him if he believed we should be developing our use of plants further and he said:
“Plants have such far-reaching opportunities, one of the most interesting things that I have seen is seaweed food wrappers i.e. could replace the wrappers on sandwiches, burgers, etc. however, they are completely biodegradable and in some instances are also edible.
Other aspects that have entered current more sustainable technologies recently are biofuel crops such as miscanthus.”
The next thing I asked Robert was in regard to his connection to plants, and how strong he felt it was. He gave me his answer (as seen below) and provided me with another link, this time to a photographic article by National Geographic on the hidden glow of flowers, something we can only see with an ultraviolet light. I visited the link on April 1st also, and read about the technique used to get flowers to fluoresce so that they themselves were the light source. The technique used for the images in the article was called Ultraviolet induced visible fluorescence photography (UVIVF for short of course). Since learning about this feature of plants, I would definitely like to try it out in my own photography, maybe as part of my FMP display.
“I am not a botanist, but I did study in Countryside Management and Ecology and as such any in the natural world is interesting to me. Lesser and Higher plants alike have some amazing interactions in the ecosystems and play such vital roles in ecosystem maintenance. When you consider certain plants, it is amazing to see their evolution and adaptations; if you check out flowering plants under UV light the colouration is significantly different, this has created lots of studies as many invertebrates and birds are suggested to observe through UV rather than the visible light spectrum.”
The next question posed to Robert was ‘In which ways do you think plants most help science?’ The answer he gave me for this question was shorter than the others, but he did provide a range of reasons and they were all very assured.
“Medicine, human population growth (crop technologies), sustainable energy production (biofuel crops) and well-being. There is more and more research being conducted into the influence of woodlands on human well-being and recovery time”.
When I asked him my favourite question on the list: ‘In which ways do you think plants most contribute to nature? ‘, Robert answered with:
“Without plants, we would not have nature, we wouldn’t have an atmosphere”. Which is straight to the point and very accurate.
I believe nature is extremely important, and so is education on all the roles of nature. I asked Robert what more he thinks we should be doing to teach others about nature. The exact question was ‘What do you think we should do to teach others about the uses of plants?’ and he responded with:
“In one way, shape, or form, plants influence everyone’s lives whether it is the source of food, clothing, building materials, medicines, fuel (including the fuel that allowed the industrial revolution). Britain’s coal developed when the landmass we now know as the UK was situated near the equator and coal swamps formed from decaying rainforest vegetation. I think more needs to be done to emphasise elements of self-sufficiency as well in all generation’s; if most individuals understand the concept of plant growing, I believe more would be done to grow certain elements at home as well as on farms.”
While interesting, this answer isn’t quite as focused as I would have liked, because he didn’t really talk about many ways to educate on the uses, only the uses themselves. Still, it was nice to see an acknowledgement of what nature and plants do actually do for us.
The follow-on question was also education focused, but more on young children during lesson time. ‘How should we educate children about ways to care for and grow their own plants/ vegetables?’. Here was what Robert had to say about it:
“As above, I think it is vitally important to ensure children are aware of the food they consume as well as how to grow it. Further to this, if children learnt to grow their own plants, it would teach other transferable skills akin to rearing an animal”.
The last question put to Robert was ‘How do you think modern industrialisation of agriculture is affecting plants/ use of plans in medicine?’. This is the most intense of the questions I asked, it looks at a bigger picture of the way we use commercial crops, as opposed to a small-scale local gardening project. As such, his answer was quite detailed:
“Industrialisation and intensification of agriculture (as a necessity to feed a growing population) has tremendously influenced plant diversity. It is estimated that 75% of the genetic diversity of crops has been lost, which may not sound that bad, however, seed banks around the world are constantly now storing seeds in the event that the remaining diversity has susceptibilities to pests/diseases. Further to this, as agriculture is expanding in rainforest areas, it is possible that there are medicinal plants that we haven’t discovered yet, that are going to extinct (without us ever knowing)”.
This interview was full of interesting and useful answers, it was nice to see someone else’s point of view. I think the interview is also unique because there’s more depth to it than the results of the surveys which mostly just comes down to statistics.
Memoir and documentary research:
The documentary I watched was called ‘Life in colour’ and it was narrated by the ever-iconic David Attenborough. I saw it live on BBC one, but I had missed the first part, so I went to the iPlayer to re-watch it a few days later. It went into detail about how prevalent colour is in both animals and plants, and how technology has evolved to allow humans to see colours in nature only previously visible to animals. For my memoir research, I watched some episodes of ‘Call the midwife’ which is a TV adaptation of Jennifer Worth’s memoirs. It was useful to me to see memoirs in this format, because it showed how easily they could be converted into a story because memoirs themselves a form of storytelling, only the story is your own personal experience. I also researched a memoir called ‘H is for Hawk’ by Helen Macdonald and used this site (https://studyrocket.co.uk/revision/igcse-english-language-edexcel/paper-one-reading/his-for-hawk) to find refined points and different interpretations of the symbolism in the piece.
When looking into why memoirs are so popular, I visited a WordPress link, where someone had written down their thoughts about why they thought memoirs are so widely written now. On the blog post (https://areadersplace.net/memoir/popular/) it was mentioned how memoirs are a personal recount of things, and once we have written them we generally feel the need to share. I believe that memoirs are popular because of the personal aspect, because you can relate and feel a connection to someone’s experience, or gain a better insight into them as people by reading this life event they have shared. Memoirs are more creative than autobiographies as they use the same sort of skills used in short story writing, rather than just a matter-of-fact recount of events. You really get a feel for the thoughts and feelings of the author in that moment in a way that feels more creative and engaging than simply being told.
The first memoir I ever wrote was written completely by accident. You can read it here on my WordPress: (https://wordpress.com/post/kayleighsblog855284505.wordpress.com/482). I thought it would be a good idea to research how to write them effectively and with purpose. The site I visited (https://thewritelife.com/how-to-write-a-memoir/) started by defining what a memoir is. “Memoir is not an autobiography. In other words, it is not the story of your whole life. Memoir is slice of life, a story of part of your life or a story from your life.”
I got into memoir writing by accident. I was intending to write a monologue but as I wrote, the words just started to flow, and they found their way into expressing personal feelings and opinions on an experience I had. That is the very basis of a memoir. When I submitted the piece of work, I submitted it as a monologue because I hadn’t yet learned that what I had written was a new genre that I hadn’t tried before. When I was told that I had written something that was more of a memoir than a monologue it inspired me to research memoirs and their techniques to see if I could write one or two with intent, rather than accidentally. I learned the basics of how to write a memoir and that helped me to understand how I could build upon both the basics, and my own experiences as a topic to create my own style of storytelling through memoir while still fitting the brief of what distinctly makes a memoir.
I found the research both helpful and enlightening. It was a process that allowed me to think differently about the way I approach collecting data, and how I can use that data to build upon my themes and points. I gained a better understanding of how to collect and interpret data from both surveys with multiple participants, and one on one interviews. I found it interesting to gain an insight on the opinions of so many people and their different walks of life. I think the experience of completing all the research was a rewarding one because I got to see how all my different methods culminated into one informational piece of writing.