Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Artist in Residence: Art & Science Talk @ Tanks Art Centre, Cairns

Installation detail 'Untitled' (Foregut microbiota - Bettong project), 2018, donna davis, Image courtesy of the artist.

We had a great turn out last night for the talk where I discussed my recent residency in Cairns with Dr Sandra Abell from the Australian Tropical Herbarium (ATH). My residency creatively explored Dr Abell's work investigating the decline of the Northern bettong.
We discussed the Bettong's unique diet of truffle fungi and the ecological implications of species loss - which was the focus of a new artwork created during this residency.  It was really interesting to engage with this topic through both an artistic and scientific lens.
The artwork I created had a particular focus of the bettong's unique foregut designed to consume large amounts of fungi; as this guy likes truffles to make up about 70% of its diet. Interestingly, and really important for the health of our ecosystems, once the truffles have been consumed they then get distributed around their habitat through scats.  You may know that truffle fungi are what is known as a 'mycorrhizal' fungi - that is they have symbiotic relationships with plants: so having this type of fungi distributed to assist native plants is really important.  So important, in fact, the Northern bettong is considered a 'Keystone' species - meaning that its role in the system is a crucial the fact that it is on the decline and currently listed as endangered is a scary thought.  

For more information about the Northern bettong visit: WWF: Northern bettong

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