Biodiversity conservation art projects

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Now you see us

The Overwintering Project

Phascogale’ and ‘Departure Lounge’


Beeac Brolga Pathways


Now You See Us

Public Art project based on the 84 species of threatened birds in the City of Greater Geelong.

Now you see us - project Mary-Jane Walker, Australasian Bittern (close)

Now you see us – Art project by Mary-Jane Walker, Australasian Bittern (close)

Dr Mary-Jane Walker is a scientist and practicing artist.  Her work centres on our relationship with the natural world and has a particular interest in the visual communication of ideas about climate change and our response and emotional blockages to this issue.


Mary-Jane’s work began with her realisation of the scale of threat to local species in the City of Greater Geelong which happening before our very eyes, in every local area, and yet remains largely ignored. 


This work is designed to be a public art installation based on the 84 species of threatened birds in the City of Greater Geelong.  It is intended to highlight the scale of risk happening at the local level, all over Australia, as we enter the global era of the Anthropocene, the age of man’s overwhelming influence on the planet.

Mary-Jane wanted to highlight the scale of this threat by focusing on just the birds, in the first instance, creating a large murmuration of sculptural birds based on the 84 species affected.  This would be made by a collective of selected local artists and would be displayed in a public place with the birds both standing and in flight depending on the species for maximum impact.

Importantly, the focus of the work is also positive and a call to action.  It would highlight the sort of activities that the City of Greater Geelong is doing in conservation of habitats, for example, revegetation of the Barwon River with native species. The aim is get the attention and support of the public for this vital issue and conservation research and work.


In preparation of this work Mary-Jane began creating the sculptural birds using new and recycled paper. The first bird created is the first on the list, the Australasian Bittern, an endangered species rarely seen by people. 

Now you see us  Art project by Mary-Jane Walker, Australasian Bittern


Now you see us  Art project by Mary-Jane Walker, Australasian Bittern


New additions to Now You See Us

Now You See Us biodiversity art Azure Kingfisher

Azure Kingfisher

Now You See Us biodiversity art Orange-bellied ParrotOrange-bellied Parrot

Now You See Us biodiversity art Little Bittern

Little Bittern

Now You See Us biodiversity art Painted Snipe

Painted Snipe


Other works

As artist in residence at The Geelong College in 2016 for Arts Week, Mary-Jane created in conjunction with the senior students a large installation of 2D and 3D birds in a murmuration.

2D and 3D birds in a murmuration. Mary-Jane Walker 1

2D and 3D birds in a murmuration 2 Mary-Jane Walker


About the artist

Mary-Jane Walker is both a scientist and an artist.  She has a doctorate in Molecular Genetics from the University of Edinburgh and graduated in art from RMIT University.

She worked at the Innovation Centre which was part of the London Design Centre and has recently joined a research group in the Department of Arts Education at Deakin University looking at opportunities for the creative arts in the teaching of science. She is also on the Education Committee of the Geelong Art Gallery.

Mary-Jane has exhibited extensively in Melbourne and Victoria and has three times been a finalist in the Australian Contemporary Textile Award as well as the Art for the Environment exhibition.  Her work has also toured Europe as part of an International Climate Change Exhibition and is held by private collectors in England, Canada and Australia.

Contact: Mary-Jane Walker at the School of Arts

The Overwintering Project: Mapping Sanctuary

overwintering project logo

This project involves art as a means of raising awareness of Australia and New Zealand as the major destination for migratory shorebirds of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, as they spend the greatest single portion of their migratory cycle on our shores (Sept./Oct. – April/May). 

Project dates: 2017 - 2020

overwintering project 2

Art work courtesy: Kate Gorringe-Smith
Project aims:
  • to raise community and individual awareness of the intrinsic value and uniqueness of local shorebird habitat
  • to map a personal response to the richness of our shores
  • to link artists around Australia and New Zealand
  • artists from Australia and New Zealand are invited to respond to the unique nature of their local migratory shorebird habitat.

The project invites artists to seek out their local habitat and document their personal response to it, making it visible to others and create an intricate and personal map of our precious shorebird habitat.

overwintering project 3

Art work courtesy: Kate Gorringe-Smith
How to be involved
  • As a contributing artist.
  • Councils, CMA’s, schools, Birdlife groups, Friends groups etc.  that have an interest in raising awareness of their local shorebirds and shorebird habitat.
  • Organising or participating in talks and workshops for participating artists, to coincide with the return of the shorebirds.
  • Providing participating artists with information about their local migratory shorebird habitat, which can include information on any aspects of the local environment.
  • Galleries holding exhibitions of 'The Overwintering Project’.

Overwintering Project: Mapping Sanctuary - Art exhibition WYNDHAM ART GALLERY Wyndham Cultural Centre, 177 Watton Street, Werribee, VICTORIA. 8 November to 31 December 2018 (9am to 5 pm).

overwintering project sample art 1

overwintering project sample art 2

A sample of images. Top L: Wading, wandering whimbrel by Kerrie Taylor. Top R: Valé Zakarauskas, Wandering Tattler Foraging. Bottom L: Flight of the Godwits by Avril Ciccone. Bottom R: Kate Hudson's Sooty Oystercatcher.

View more of the prints on project's website ‘The Overwintering Project’

Contact: The Overwintering project


Peter Forward: ‘Phascogale’ and ‘Departure Lounge’

Most Australians live in the larger cities and get only glimpses of the natural world on TV. Conservation issues rarely enter their lives or their children's lives. Even educated people in cities seem to view species conservation as a rural concern.

We see ourselves as separate from the rest of nature yet we cannot exist without it. Science requires logic, repeatable testing of theory and hard data, but it's not really designed to communicate or convince. The arts however play with emotion and feeling and can be simultaneously entertaining and persuasive. Art can provide a spring-board to expanding interest in species/ecosystem conservation.

This sculpture project attempts to spotlight marsupial species threatened with extinction due to introduced predator impact and habitat loss, but also references the inherent threat human ‘requirements’ pose to their continued existence.

Phascogale sculpture by Peter Forward.


ARTEFACT is a collective of scientists and artists that are dedicated to exploring new ways of communicating conservation science.

By bringing together the creative imaginations of artists with the logical reasoning of scientists, we work to create a bridge for people to learn about conservation. 

Beeac Brolga Pathways

The Beeac Brolga Pathways project is a partnership between the students and staff at Beeac Primary, plus environmrental artist Peter Day. The project also has input from Inca Veltheim (Brolga PhD researcher).

Peter introduced art to the students via sculptural pieces using natural materials such as bark, grasses and paperbark where students could weave over wire frames of brolgas, creating life size art works. Other art activities included screens of brolgas placed into the landscape as well as brolga crossing road signs placed on local roads.  

Blending art, science and inquisitiveness, this project has inspired a community with Brolga conservation in mind.

Beeac Brolga Pathways talk to SWIFFT video conference plus video.


Please contribute information regarding biodiversity art projects.  Contact SWIFFT 



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