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The Underwater Worlds Project

The Realm Aquatic

The Realm Aquatic. Imagining, representing and understanding the Underwater World, c. 1740-2014. This project between Humanities, Arts, Ecology and Science scholars at the Universities of Sydney, Stanford and Vanderbilt commenced on a modest scale in 2013 and has already seen several joint conferences, colloquia and Great Barrier Reef research expeditions.

We aim to explore the transformational impact of the human discovery, exploration and use of the vast and still relatively unknown underwater oceanic realm. We propose to focus on how aquatic environments and the marine creatures who inhabit them were imagined, represented, explored, exploited and endangered. We will draw on the works of selected western and indigenous artists, writers, scientists, engineers and indigenous knowledge custodians from the mid-eighteenth century to the present.

Two cross-disciplinary clusters of University researchers lead the project. They are:

The University of Sydney
Professor Iain McCalman (Sydney Environment Institute, History)
Professor Marie Byrne (Marine Biology/Anatomy)
Leah Lui-Chivezhe (History/Anthropology)
Dr Caitlin de Berigny Wall (Design, Digital Arts)

Stanford University
Professor Margaret Cohen (Comparative Literature)
Professor Stephen Palumbi (Marine Biology, Hopkins Marine Station)
Anthony Palumbi (Marine Author)

Vanderbilt University
Professor Jonathan Lamb (English)
Killian Quigley (English)

In addition, we have recruited participants with key expertise from outside of the University world, including Dr J.E.N. Veron, (marine biologist), Darwin medalist, leading coral reef expert and former Chief Scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and Mike Bluett, digital producer, Northern Dogs Digital, Cairns.

We propose to produce a jointly authored book, a series of innovative digital works, and an educational website. We hope also to stage a major conference at Stanford in 2015, possibly in collaboration with the Stanford Humanities Institute, and an exhibition curated by Professor Margaret Cohen at the University Museum at Stanford. The Macleay Museum of Natural History at the University of Sydney will also collaborate in an exhibition on the life and death of corals, sharks and turtle.