Dive In to the New Wardlaw Exhibit and Help Save Our Oceans

Jamie Locke-Jones
Friday 29 October 2021

The University of St Andrews’ Wardlaw Museum recently announced Dive In! Protecting Our Ocean, its new exhibition, digital content and events programme highlighting the wonders of the ocean, the challenges it faces, and the actions that we can take to save it.

 A model of a harbour seal found at the Dive In exhibit, nicknamed Ceilia 

The exhibition exists as a call to action, showing visitors what they can do to make a difference and demonstrating just how vital that difference could be. As technology continues to develop, the natural world finds itself under threat as entire ecosystems are disrupted and destroyed. For many animals, the overwhelming power of man-made industry is impossible to manage – without assistance, they are very much at risk of destruction through irresponsible human action.

The University of St Andrews is a world leader in oceanic research, and its global influence is reflected through Dive In. The exhibition highlights the impact of ocean warming and marine renewable energy development on seals. The United Kingdom is home to over a third of the world’s eastern Atlantic harbour seals, who are an important indicator of our oceans’ health overall. In the School of Biology, the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) has done tremendous work in protecting this highly vulnerable species. Collaborations with national governments has enabled SMRU to ensure human activity in the oceans takes seals and other marine life into consideration, minimising our damage to the species. Since 2016, their work using aerial surveys has led to a comprehensive assessment of over 95% of resting places for harbour seals in the UK, ensuring we have the information we need to protect them properly.

The exhibition takes a reverse depth approach, with the visitor’s journey beginning in the deep of the ocean, travelling through the middle zones, shallows and coast  to finish on land.  In the middle zone, its focus turns to whales, dolphins and other cetaceans.  The marine life which has lived in these areas for countless generations relies on sound for navigation and communication. As a result, it is becoming more difficult for them to interact, eat, breed and survive in their natural habitat.

As part of its exploration of what causes damage to the ocean, Dive In! explores the decisions we make on land and in the air. It emphasises the decisions we can make to effect meaningful change, providing vivid case studies from around the world. One of these is a message of climate and heritage conveyed through music by Chemical, which you can read more about here.

The exhibition itself has been designed to inform future Museums’ exhibitions and programming. Extensive evaluation will be carried out to measure and demonstrate the impact of Dive In! on audience behaviour and citizen engagement. As a result, the exhibition will learn over time from its visitors, and grow over time while generating invaluable data to help future museum exhibitions and programming. Wardlaw was designed to be a laboratory as well as a museum, and the Dive In! exhibition is an exciting development that makes full use of this potential. Dive In! Protecting Our Ocean can be found in the University Wardlaw Museum from the 8th October 2021 to the 30th January 2022.

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