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Brown Bag Seminar: Oscar Hartman Davies - Samplers of the marine environment: seabirds and the lively sensing of ocean space

Time: Thu 2023-11-16 12.00 - 13.00

Location: Big seminarroom, Teknikringen 74D, floor 5

Language: English

Participating: Oscar Hartman Davies, Oxford University

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In this talk Oscar explores the somewhat unlikely alliances that have formed between seabirds living in very remote places, and scientists seeking to understand marine environmental change. Seabirds have long been a medium through which people have made sense of the sea: as literary devices for exploring human-ocean relations (think Coleridge’s albatross, for example), and as beings signalling fish and nearby coasts to fishers and ocean-going travellers or the passage of seasons to coastal communities. More recently, they have been treated as important indicator or sentinel species which allow scientists to map the state of marine ecosystems. Through examples, he show how this framing has come about, how it has changed over time, and point to its underlying politics. Oscar starst in the Southern Ocean overseas territories of the UK and France, where systematic seabird science emerged from the 1950s onwards as a by-product of other imperial endeavours and geopolitical motivations. He then moves to how seabird scientists positioned the data collected through these programs as data about marine environments, and thus sought to elevate the significance of their work as the production of knowledge about an increasingly turbulent and depleted sea. Lastly, he illustrates how this idea was reconfigured through the development of new bird-borne sensing technologies in the early 1990s, creating new connections between the science and politics of the ocean as a volumetric, physical space, and as an inhabited, lively ecology. The conceptual move underlying this account is the development of a “technonatural history” (Searle et al. 2023) of ocean sensing which subtly rethinks the roles of animals in the production of scientific knowledge about, and the exercise of control over, marine space.

Register for the seminar and a vegan sandwich here!