Artist records plants at Dungerness




The plant life at the RSPB reserve at Dungerness is being used in a new art project by a local artist.

Rare plant life at RSPB Dungeness nature reserve and Romney Marsh is being recorded as part of an innovative art project using DNA profiling.

Nicholette Goff explores the natural landscape, not through traditional methods of painting or drawing, but by creating artwork from the living materials of nature.

She said: “My interest in conservation issues has evolved to a point where I am now focussing on creating ‘prints’ of plants that are endangered and, in the case of the RSPB’s nature reserve at Dungeness, being protected.

“By laying sample leaves or flower heads on paper or fabric they leave behind a ghost of colour and shape. What you’re left with is a silhouette image. In this way we are creating a record of species that are threatened with disappearing.”

Thanks to funding from Shepway District Council, and with guidance from Owen Leyshon of Romney Marsh Countryside Partnership and the RSPB, Nicholette is currently researching and developing a set of prints to raise awareness of the vulnerability of some of the wildflowers in the area.

She has started with Stinking Hawk’s-beard which having been declared extinct in the 1980s has been rediscovered on the Dungeness National Nature Reserve.  Seed has been sown in trial plots on the RSPB reserve over the last few years as well as on a few places on the Point within the NNR.

It is distinguished by its nodding flower buds and the sickly sweet smell of bitter almonds from its crushed leaves, from which it gets its name.

Phil Beraet, assistant warden at RSPB Dungeness, said: “We don’t know exactly why Stinking Hawk’s-beard died out in the 1980s but we hope that the newly found plants and some re-establishment trials will see the population increasing back to the level it was at in the mid 1900s.

“The work Nicholette is doing is a really innovative way to get our conservation messages across and hopefully it will inspire a whole new audience.”

The RSPB’s Dungeness nature reserve is home to this and many other rare and endangered plants such as the Marsh Cinquefoil [image attached].

Nicholette, who has been assisted by student Milena Bolton, is also working with the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), at the University of Kent to generate DNA profiles of some of the threatened plants.

Data from the DNA sequencing process can be viewed in a number of ways: as a barcode; in graph form or as a sequence of numbers. Nicholette plans to combine the DNA images with her prints of the Stinking Hawk’s-beard.

An exhibition of the resulting prints will open at Georges House Gallery, Folkestone in March 2012. For details visit: www.strangecargo.org.uk/gallery/

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