Art + Science + Dung Beetles: Collaborating to Sustain People, Land and Water

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Emma Curtin
Jessica Ritchie
Henrik Moller


Report from the Art+Water, art and science project 2019.

Dung beetles connect history, myth, science, and economy. They symbolise regeneration and restoration of life. They keep vital ecological cycles churning, build soil, disperse nutrients, and even play a role in protecting our streams. They improve soils to help feed people. That makes dung beetles joiners and menders – what better agents for connecting the minds and hearts of an artist (Jessica Ritchie), an entomologist (Emma Curtin) and an ecologist (Henrik Moller) in an Art+Water project?

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Author Biographies

Emma Curtin, Zoology, University of Otago

Emma Curtin, a PhD student based in the Zoology Department at the University of Otago, is investigating three main research questions: Do dung beetles provide benefits to soil structure and composition, and does this lead to a decrease in nutrient leaching? Do dung beetles affect the biomass and abundance of earthworms? Can dung beetles effectively break the life cycle of intestinal worms?

Jessica Ritchie

Jessica Ritchie, a Dunedin based artist, has a Master of Fine Arts (distinction) from the Dunedin School of Art. Her practise is concerned with process, the exploration of the formal qualities of painting, and the expressive forces of colour, light, and materiality. She is a qualified art and music secondary school teacher, and early childhood teacher.

Henrik Moller, Professor Emeritus at the University of Otago’s Centre for Sustainability

Henrik Moller is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Otago’s Centre for Sustainability – Agriculture, Food, Energy & Environment. He co-leads the “Hill Country Futures” project for Beef+Lamb New Zealand, which features release and monitoring of dung beetles for regenerative agriculture and other potentially valuable biological farming approaches to future-proof hill country farming, the hill lands, and their communities.