Research : Current Projects

My research in science communication merges theory and practice around the intersection of scientific and artistic research with a focus on participatory practiceFrequently it tackles transdisciplinarity,  aesthetics, sensory cognition, and traditional knowledge around environmental issues including biodiversity, often in a marine space.

Below I list a variety of work, divided (somewhat artificially) into projects focusing on marine biology & environmental change;  participatory science & society (citizen science, co-creation, dialogue, TEK) with emphasis on socioscientific/philosophical aspects of biodiversity (ecology, evolution, conservation values); and work focusing on aesthetics & science (ArtScience vs Sci-Art, paradigms & visual narratives in science, synosia/haptics & sensory cognition).

MARINE BIOLOGY  &  ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE : I have ~ 25 yrs experience as a research biologist, studying adaptation at genetic, physiological, and evolutionary ecology levels -most recently  in the context of ocean warming (see link to studying adaptation in science & society, publications, & brief bio of work on Adaptation at high latitudes). My science and society work remains focused on many marine issues:

  • Community-based Marine Conservation: this internationally collaborative work extends conservation management thinking on what are ‘healthy’ marine ecosystems to include local social values, investigating novel ways to capture wider community perspectives and knowledge using social arts practice. (See link here to my blog posts on one aspect.) This work also informs my link with U Otago’s ‘Coastal People’ Research Theme.
  • Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge: In 2015/16 I served on the Science Leader Team & headed the Communication and Outreach programme; I currently serve as part of the Technical Advisory Group.
  • Polar science & society: My recent projects with postgraduate students have ranged from communicating change in the Ross Sea (from diatom blooms to toothfish fisheries) to examining the effect of place on Antarctic researchers (see pubs & student lists). I am involved with the University of Otago Polar Environment Research Theme (see project here), have produced artwork on polar themes for scientific journals and for the IPY (see below under Polar Marine Art), and have ongoing collaborations on Antarctic fish
  • Rising Waters: a new collaborative Sci-Art project with the Dunedin School of Art and S. Dunedin communities threatened by sea level rise. [Watch this space…]
  • The ARTiculation of Change (2º DIFFERENT and other empathy-building projects, see also Climate Art below)
  • Representation of Climate Change science in NZ news 

PARTICIPATORY SCIENCE  (citizen science, co-creative processdialogue, &  Traditional Ecological Knowledge)

  • Participatory science: a member of the Citizen Science Association I am interested in diverse aspects of this global movement; tackling different angles w/ my masters students (e.g. Exploring synergies: Hopeful tourism and citizen science (Annals of Tourism Research (Brosnan, Filep & Rock; 2015). I supervise the PhD research of NZMSC director, Sally Carson, whose thesis implements & assesses the impact of a marine health citizen science project, Marine Meter ² & how it can be developed into a tool for community-led inquiry. This work also contributes to the Science Special In Group of the New Zealand Association of Research in Education on topics of ‘participatory science as circuit-breaker’ and  ‘public data-donation or citizen-engaged enquiry’. In another project I examine methodological aspects of citizen science by analysing key factors affecting longterm civic engagement (submitted ms; See here for more, plus here for links to projects analysed).
  • Cultural Perspectives on Biodiversity: see an example of  work I did with my students and some collaborators here at Biodiversityvoice: a blog for debate, with a link to our paper on the project in Conservation Biology. A current masters student, Desna Whaanga-Schollum, expands such work with her project on DESIGNING AN INTEGRATED MAURI PRACTICE FOR TAIPŌRUTU, which integrates indigenous agroecology, TEK and communication& engagement through mapping and visual design.
  • Natural History in the Digital Age: Served as editor for a special series on this topic for the J of Natural History Education and Experience. To me the big deal with digital is its potential for wider/novel participation. See here my ‘priming’ editorial, and the journal call for papers and associated on-line forum site.
  • Mapping Complex Science: Social mapping (ala Latour) has the capacity to open wider engagement with complex issues in science & society. Creative experiments employing this methodology happen in my masters-level teaching (see here) and see here for the mapping project of the Erasmus Mundus Masters student I supervised, Olga Khomenko. She tackled the tricky topic of conserving NZ native galaxiid fish in Otago, & not only introduced a lot of complex issues but performed useful action-research by constructing the entire website and its infographics using only freeware. See also here for more on mapping (deconstructing) paradigms in science. And see also Desna’s project above.
  • Community co-creation with The Sandpit: Funded through a grant from the Environment & Heritage Lottery Board, and designed and built in collaboration with the Otago Polytech and Innovation workSpace team, this project creates a space for experimentation with creative informal communication about issues relating to the local natural environment. It is designed as a mobile exhibition space for community engagement and co-creation (check out the website for examples).


  • Citizen Sci-Art: In 2015 I started a collaboration with local print-maker Lynn Taylor to  research ways to integrate social art (participatory/citizen Sci-Art) with community conservation issues surrounding predator-erradication and biodiversity. We kicked off with a workshop and exhibition with the Stewart Island community (see Lynn’s description on her blog). In 2016 we extended this with the Otago Peninsula communities and OPBG. [watch this space but here is more from Lynn and our advert Citizen SciArt ]
  • Art + Ocean, Art + AnatomyArt + Neuroscience; Art + Light:  I facilitate and evaluate an annual collaborative project between the Dunedin School of Art & Otago University’s science departments (see archive );  I am co-coordinator of the 2018 Project: Art + Ocean. Research from prev. years includes: (1) Art and Anatomy: The structure and function of an art-science collaborationRock, J., and S. Howard.  Scope: Contemporary Research Topics in Art & Design. (2) Seeing science “through new eyes” in an Art and Neuroscience Collaboration. 2014 Howard, S. and J. Rock. Scope: Contemporary Research Topics in Art & Design. (3) Art–Science and the Viewing Public: Illuminating Observations from “Art and Light” Viewers. 2016. Napper, R. and J. Rock. Scope: Contemporary Research Topics in Art & Design.
  • I serve on the board of S+ART, the Science, Technology and Art Trust of New Zealand (latest work here). And I facilitate public dialogue about art & science: for ex. I co-organised the 2016 public debate “You are your DNA?” with Unitec (Craig Hilton) and the Dunedin Art Museum (see debate write-up here and video here), and delivered a keynote for SCANZ (Science Communication Assoc of NZ) in 2016 on “ArtScience” … “SciArt” : What do we mean and what does it matter? I served on the organising committee for the Art & Future Symposium ’16 Dunedin School of Art (see website); and organised a special symposium: Art – Science interaction: How can we further the effect? for the XXth International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology ’14: Ecological Responsibility and Human Imagination (See here for participation call).
  • Art & the Scientific Method: The work of my PhD student, Sunkita Howard, extended my interests in the scientific methods and contemporary art-science divide. In her biological research, art was situated as a key methodology for reflective thought (analysis) and hypothesis generation (see this space for more, as well as her blog)
  • My own sci-art practice uses collagraph (intaglio printmaking) to explore biodiversity, evolution and climate science, particularly surrounding polar marine environments, and has been selected for several juried exhibitions: e.g. the ASCI New York Hall of Science 2017 exhibition ‘Science Inspires Art: OCEAN; the Art Science Gallery (Austin Tx) 2015 exhibition From Mountains to Sea‘. It was featured with the IPY (International Polar Year programme)Polar Marine Art; and has been used for cover art on science journals (2016 vol 2  The Polar Journal).
  • Art-Science: I demonstrate some of my major interests in art-science interaction on the site Scission, which hosts dialogue between artist & scientist and also archives a variety of resources and exemplars. See more of my thoughts are articulated here on a ArtScience perspective page and here on Metaphor, Analogy & Visual Narrative as Contextual Thinking.
  • 2º DIFFERENT: An ARTiculation of Change (see my ongoing project involving  Science Communication masters students that I teach: here & here)
  • Aesthetics of Space
  • From Pattern to Process: Secrets of Great Growth (Exhibition w/ Michelle Harnett at the Portobello Marine Lab & Aquarium 2012)
  • Paradigms of Science & Society
  • Creative collaborations with the collective of artisans (visual artist + musicians, storytellers poets…) at Wild Boar Press. Work led by Sean Harris that unites historical narratives with  aspects of science (archeology/anthropology) and identity/landscape/legend and art (fine art/animation/school-based performative work/communities. Working closely with National museums of Wales, Scotland and Ireland and British Museum.

Science Communication papers

(see publications list for biological papers as well):

Narrative, Rhetoric and Science: Seeking Evidence. Siebert, J. and J. Rock. 2017  In Media of Evidence, Evidence of Media. O. Kramer (Ed.), Southern Illinois Univ. Press, Carbondale, IL (in press). 

Testing a mobile platform for community co-created exhibitions.  2017. Rogers, A. & J. Rock. Curator: The Museum Journal. 60 (3): 335–349.

Legitimizing boundary crossing for the average scientist: Two cases acknowledging how arts practice informs science.  Rock J. and S. Howard (In press) Leonardo: Journal of the International Society for Arts, Science and Technology.

Value systems, scientists and the Antarctic: Using the values of science to inform climate change communication. 2016. McLean, L. and J. Rock. The Polar Journal 6(2):291-306

Community co-creation of exhibitions within a museum setting. 2016. Rogers, A. and J. Rock, J.  Tauhere: Connections (An Emerging Museum Professionals’ Publication) 2: 62-74.

Empowering students in higher education to teach and learn. Shephard, K., K. Brown, S. Connelly, M. Hall, H. Payne-Harker, N. Payne-Harker, J. Harraway, J. Martin, M. Mirosa, J. Rock, E. Simmons. 2016.  NZ Journal for Educational Studies :1-15 doi 10.1007/s40841-016-0072-x

Art–Science and the Viewing Public: Illuminating Observations from “Art and Light” Viewers. 2016. Napper, R. and J. Rock. 2016 Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue 16: 75-77.

How are scientists using social media in the workplace? 2016. Collins, K., D. Shiffman, J. Rock. 2016.  PLOS ONE

Exploring synergies: Hopeful tourism and citizen science. 2015. Brosnan, T., S. Filep and J. Rock. 2015. Annals of Tourism Research 54: 96-98.

Mediating the science: Symbolic and structural influences on communicating climate change though New Zealand’s television news. M. Bourk, J. Rock, and L. Davis  2015. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture. DOI:10.1080/17524032.2015.1058289

Building dialogue on complex conservation issues: Cultural perspectives of management and biodiversity in a conference setting. 2014 J. Rock, A.Sparrow, R. Wass, H. Moller  Conservation Biology 28(5):1428–1433.

Natural History in the Digital Age? 2014. J. Rock Journal of Natural History Education and Experience 8:9-11.


Art and Anatomy: The structure and function of an art-science collaboration. 2014 Rock, J., and S. Howard.  Scope: Contemporary Research Topics in Art & Design (9):142-151.

Seeing science “through new eyes” in an Art and Neuroscience Collaboration. 2014 Howard, S. and J. Rock.  Scope: Contemporary Research Topics in Art & Design (9):104-107

Our view of islands: Joining the values of science and society.  2014 A. Sides , L. Davis and J. Rock Ecological Management and Restoration. 15:123-127.

Future Food: Fiction and Reality. 2014 E. Gordon and J. Rock (in Art and Food, P. Stupples (Ed), Cambridge Scholars Publishing).

Documentary as a Statement: A New Definition for a New Age. 2014. Smith, N. and J. Rock Journal of Media Practice

River Dog: Re-imagining and re-representing the environment and de-idealising the rural in New Zealand film.  2012. Muir, J. and J. Rock. New Zealand Geographer 68:219-224.

———— submitted/under revision——-

Site-specific documentary film for increasing stakeholder awareness in local marine conservation. Bennett, A., J. Cooper and J. Rock. (submitted to Marine and Freshwater Research).

A Multidisciplinary Look at Co-Creation : Towards a Better Mix of Community and Museum. J. Rock and A. Rogers (submitted to Science Communication)

The influence of place: A case study of Antarctic scientists. Frederick, G. and J. Rock. (submitted to The Polar Journal). 

Creativity, Laterality and Critical State Balance in Learning. J. Rock and A. Flatt (submitted to STEAM Journal)

What is the ocean: A sea-change in our perceptions and values? Sima, E. and J. Rock. (submitted to Human Ecology Review)


Learning from longline fishermen’s perspectives on shark bycatch towards the development of a shark bycatch reduction initiative. Howard, S., C. Hepburn, and J. Rock (in prep for Conservation Biology)

Developing a microprocessor-based electrosensory elasmobranch bycatch reduction device. Howard, S., C. Hepburn, R. Brill and J. Rock (in prep for sub to ICES)

Citizen Science: critical components for civic engagement. Rock, J., M. Hu, and S. Carsen  (prev submitted to Citizen Science: Theory and Practice).

Psychometric evaluation of civic engagement: the effect of science storytelling. J. Rock, S. Odlin, L. Smith, and J. Smith (in prep)

What Helps us Learn? Science Communication via Documentaries L. Morris and J. Rock (in prep)

Relevant Journals list (some goodies I follow)