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Ruth Brennan

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SAMS Honorary Fellow and LMC Associate

I am a marine social ecologist associated with the interdisciplinary Laurence Mee Centre for Society and the SeaI use innovative visual and participatory qualitative methodologies in exploring and articulating the relationships between people and place. My work is highly interdisciplinary and positioned at the interface of science, policy and the arts. My doctoral thesis (April 2015) examined how the articulation of culturally-embedded relationships between people and place can faciltate engagement with the related policy environment. It exposed the perils of isolating the human dimension of conservation and planning that ensures sustainable livelihoods from the natural ecosystem conservation dimension. It considered how challenging the dominant narrative of conservation through the visual articulation of competing realities can create space for different narratives to emerge. It provides insights into the role played by competing value systems in natural resource management and conservation conflicts.

I am an experienced facilitator and communicator both through my research and my former career as a solicitor with a leading international law firm in London and Paris. I have been collaborating for 4 years with Glasgow-based visual artist Stephen Hurrel and our art-science work has been widely exhibited in Scotland. Our most recent work, Clyde Reflections, was installed at GoMA, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow from May to July 2015.

 My research interests include:

  • identifying and exploring the issues underlying natural resource management and conservations conflicts in coastal communities with a focus on social history and cultural influences that shape relations between humans and nature;
  • the coupled social-ecological aspects of marine policy; and
  • art-science collaborations.

Education / career

 

Research

Research activities

Current Projects

Past Projects

Research grants awarded and Co-PI/Research Associate:

Research Associate:

Research Assistant:

 

What lies beneath: probing the cultural depths of a nature conservation conflict in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. (Doctoral thesis, 2015)

 

Abstract

  • On the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, the challenges and forces
    conditioning the community are natural and social. Buffeted by the Atlantic sea and perched
    at the periphery of the most westerly inhabited islands in Scotland, linguistically different to
    mainland Scotland, religiously distinct from much of the rest of the Hebrides and bearing the
    psychological legacy of nineteenth century Highland Clearances, this case-study illustrates
    how a social-ecological system responds to the dominant narrative of conservation in the
    marine policy environment.


    This research explores the cultural depths of a conflict between the local community and the
    Scottish Government around the creation of two marine Special Areas of Conservation
    (mSAC) off the coast of the island. Barra’s rich maritime heritage suggested the presence of
    embedded values that appeared to be colliding with values driving the mSAC designation
    process. Visual participatory methods were used to understand what 'conservation' means for
    the islanders and to find a way of connecting the worldviews of decision-makers with the
    marine environment lived and experienced by the local community. The story of Barra
    exposes the perils of isolating the human dimension of conservation and planning that
    ensures sustainable livelihoods from the natural ecosystem conservation dimension. It
    considers how challenging the dominant narrative of conservation through the articulation of
    competing realities can create space for different narratives to emerge. It provides insights
    into the role played by competing value systems in natural resource management and
    conservation conflicts.

 

You can listen to me talking about the early stages of this research in a podcast interview from the second MASTS Annual Science Meeting at Heriot Watt Conference Centre, 11-13 September 2012.
 


Supervisors

  • Professor Laurence Mee (Director of Studies October 2009-August 2014), SAMS
  • Professor Frank Rennie (Director of Studies January-April 2015), UHI, Lews Castle College
  • Dr Tavis Potts, SAMS and University of Aberdeen

 

University

Project details

  • Duration: September 2012 - September 2013
  • Funders: Creative Scotland (Value: £46,000)
  • Scientists involved at SAMS: Ruth Brennan
  • Partners: Stephen Hurrel (Hurrel Visual Arts); Voluntary Action Barra and Vatersay

- See more at: http://www.sams.ac.uk/ruth-brennan/sgeulachdan-na-mara-sea-stories-1#sthash.dGfGIbcW.dpuf

 

 

Funders

Fieldwork during 2011-2013 was funded by the National Trust for Scotland (Value £8000)

Project details

  • Duration: September 2012 - September 2013
  • Funders: Creative Scotland (Value: £46,000)
  • Scientists involved at SAMS: Ruth Brennan
  • Partners: Stephen Hurrel (Hurrel Visual Arts); Voluntary Action Barra and Vatersay
- See more at: http://www.sams.ac.uk/ruth-brennan/sgeulachdan-na-mara-sea-stories-1#sthash.dGfGIbcW.dpuf

Project details

  • Duration: September 2012 - September 2013
  • Funders: Creative Scotland (Value: £46,000)
  • Scientists involved at SAMS: Ruth Brennan
  • Partners: Stephen Hurrel (Hurrel Visual Arts); Voluntary Action Barra and Vatersay
- See more at: http://www.sams.ac.uk/ruth-brennan/sgeulachdan-na-mara-sea-stories-1#sthash.dGfGIbcW.dpuf

 

Publications

Publications and presentations

Peer-reviewed journals

 

Book chapters

  • Tett, P., Black, K., Brennan, R. Cook, E., Davidson, K. (2015) Challenge: Sustainable mariculture at high latitudes. In Baztan J., Chouinard O., Jorgensen B., Tett P., Vanderlinden J.P. and Vasseur L. (Eds.) Coastal Zones: Solutions for the 21st century. Elsevier: Amsterdam.
  • Hurrel S. and Brennan R. 2014. Clyde Reflections - a film and audio-visual installation. In Griffith D. (Ed.) Imagining Natural Scotland. Creative Scotland: Edinburgh and Glasgow. (Chapter available for viewing with full permission of Creative Scotland).

 

Reports

 

Other publications

 

Short films

 

Exhibitions and screenings

  • Hurrel S. and Brennan R. 2015. Clyde Reflections - an audio-visual installation. Main Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow 29 May-5 July 2015.
  • Hurrel S. and Brennan R. 2014. Clyde Reflections film premiere screening at Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) Glasgow 11 September 2014.
  • Hurrel S. and Brennan R. 2014. Sea Stories and Belonging to the Sea exhibited as part of North Sea Hitch at Timespan, Helmsdale 5-29 July 2014 
  • Hurrel S. and Brennan R. 2013. Sea Stories and Belonging to the Sea exhibited as part of Sea Change at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh November 2013-January 2014

 

Conference Activity

Conference papers

Brennan R. 2015 Cultural transformations in the Scottish marine policy process: the story of Barra To be presented at the ESRC Symposium on Marine Conservation and Governance: MPAs and beyond. 24-25 September 2015 University of Bristol (Invited speaker, forthcoming)

Brennan R. 2015 Cultural transformations in the Scottish marine policy process: the story of Barra

Presented as a webinar to the MASTS (Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland) research

community, 18 June 2015 (Invited speaker)

Brennan R. 2014 What lies beneath – probing the depths of a nature conservation conflict in the Outer

Hebrides, Scotland Presented at the 2nd Marine and Coastal Policy Forum, Plymouth University, 18-20 June

2014 (Conference presentation)

Brennan R. 2013 What lies beneath – probing the depths of a nature conservation conflict in the Outer

Hebrides, Scotland Presented at the Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference 28-30

August 2013 (Conference presentation)

Hurrel S. and Brennan R. 2013 Clyde Reflections Jointly presented at the Imagining Natural Scotland

Conference, St Andrews University, 27 August 2013 (Conference presentation)

Brennan R. 2013 Connecting nature conservation and community well-being on a small Scottish

island: an invisible world revealed Presented at the Association of American Geographers 2013 Annual

Meeting, Los Angeles, CA, 9-13 April 2013 (Conference presentation)

Brennan R. 2012 What lies beneath – probing the depths of a nature conservation conflict in the Outer

Hebrides, Scotland Presented at the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland Annual

Science Meeting, 11-13 September 2012 (Conference presentation)

Brennan R. 2009 Sustainable management of wild Irish Atlantic salmon: keys found through the looking

glass Presented at the Fourth International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, University of

Athens, 8-11 July 2009 (Conference presentation)

 

Research institutions

Brennan R. 2015 Thinking about how we think about nature – a marine conservation conflict in the Outer

Hebrides, Scotland Presented at the Nordland Research Institute, Bodø, Norway, 25 March 2015 as part of

an exchange visit under the MERIKA (Marine Energy Research Innovation and Knowledge Accelerator) EU

FP7 (REGPOT) programme (Invited speaker)

Brennan R. 2014 A qualitative art-science methodology to explore and articulate ideas, visions and

expressions of marine space and related social and cultural values Presented at the School of Global

Studies, University of Gothenburg, 3 November 2014 (Invited speaker)

Brennan R. 2012 Art-Science-Community Collaborations Presented at the James Hutton Institute, 23

November 2012 (Invited speaker)

 

Policy environment

Brennan R. 2014 Social science and art meet marine policy – the cultural depths of a nature conservation

conflict in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Presented at a lunchtime seminar, Marine Scotland, Edinburgh, 30

January 2014 (Invited speaker)

Brennan R. and Potts T. 2010 Developing social and economic objectives for Scotland’s national marine

Plan Presented at a stakeholder and policy-maker workshop, Marine Scotland, Edinburgh, 7 September 2009

(Invited speaker)

 

 

Teaching

Teaching

Past research students


  • Eoina Rodgers (BSc (Hons.) Marine Science, SAMS, 2013). Supervisor for final year dissertation. Dissertation title: Management options for the Sound of Barra.
     
  • Glen Smith (MSc University of Edinburgh, 2011). Supervisor for paper published in Ocean & Coastal Management: Losing our way with mapping: thinking critically about marine spatial planning in Scotland. Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2012.08.016

  • Abi Sutton (MSc, University of Edinburgh, 2011, supervisor) Dissertation title: Policy dialogue mechanisms for successful implementation of co-management strategies in Scotland's inshore fishing sector.

 

Past teaching activities

External

External activities / measures of esteem

Facilitation skills

  • The Work that Reconnects Facilitator Training Course, UK (2010)

  • Facilitation Skills and Stakeholder Participation Training Course, Dialogue Matters, UK (2007)

 

External committees

  • Comataidh Gàidhlig (UHI Gaelic Committee)
  • Advisory Group member to the Small Isles and Mull Inshore Fisheries Group
  • Member of the Gendered Seas working group on gender issues in fisheries which is part of the European Oceans Past Platform

 

Public engagement

  • Co-facilitator at public meetings run by Argyll and Bute Council to inform and develop a draft ICZM Plan for Loch Etive, North Argyll (2010)
  • Oban Festival of the Sea: Marine Environment Workshops for Primary 3-5 (2010)
  • Participation in SAMS Open Days (2009, 2010)
  • Radio interview, SIAR Media, Barra (August 2010)
  • Radio interview, SIAR Media, Barra (July 2011)
  • Public research meeting, Heritage Centre, Barra (March 2012)
  • Public workshop on Communicating Across Differences (with Verene Nicolas), Barra (May 2012)
  • Public presentation to launch Belonging to the Sea at Clan MacNeil Gathering, Barra (August 2012)
  • Public presentation to students and educators in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as part of The Clipperton Project Flating Laboratory: The Journey South (April 2013)
  • Public presentation for The Clipperton Project Floating Laboratory: Scotland's Canals, Inverness (August 2013)
  • Public presentation to launch Sea Stories online cultural map of the sea, Heritage Centre, Barra (November 2013)
  • Running workshops for local children at Palizada, Mexico, as part of The Clipperton Project Usumacinta River expedition (April 2014)
  • Public presentation to students and educators in Palizada, Mexico, as part of The Clipperton Project Usumacinta River expedition (April 2014)
  • Public talk (Artists' Talk) at GoMA, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow on art-science collaborations (30 May 2015)
  • Moving Image Season: Clyde Reflections Seminar (public) to explore social-ecological aspects of Clyde Reflections and current discussions on environment-society relationships, GoMA, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow (13 June 2015)
  • Forthcoming: Meet the Artists' talk for educators and senior secondary level students, GoMA Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow (September 2015)

 

Prizes, awards and bursaries

  • Butterworths Ireland Law Prize, Trinity College Dublin (1994)
  • Foundation Scholarship (1995)
  • Trinity College Dublin Julian Prize (1997)
  • University of Plymouth Masters Scholarship (2006)

 

 
My contact details

ruth misol ha close up.jpg

Dr Ruth Brennan
E: ruth.brennan@sams.ac.uk