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National Endowment for the Humanities’ Spotlight on the Humanities

These events are supported by a National Endowment of the Humanities’ Spotlight on the Humanities grant for Plymouth State University’s Sustainability Studies program.

Bridging art, science, and nature to create healthier communities

Presented by Semra Aytur

Wednesday, November 8, 2023, 6-7pm

Dr. Aytur will discuss the importance of bridging art, science, and nature to create healthier communities using a ‘planetary health’ lens. She will share her experiences as an epidemiologist and an artist, providing examples of ways to integrate art and science to advance public health and environmental justice. Artistic methods can be blended with nature-based therapeutic interventions to improve physical and mental health. Emerging research suggests that exposure to nature may provide numerous health benefits, including changing brain network connectivity. Collectively, this work underscores the importance of engaging researchers, citizen scientists, Indigenous Peoples, and transdisciplinary stakeholders in the stewardship of health-promoting natural resources.

Semra Aytur, PhD, MPH is a Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Aytur is an epidemiologist whose research focuses on community resilience and the relationships between the built, natural, and social environment in keeping people well. She has published over 70 scientific journal articles and two books on health policy analysis. She uses methods such as Photovoice to connect the humanities with science to improve community health. She is also a visual artist who enjoys using painting to express relationships between health and the environment.

Dr. Aytur earned a PhD in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in cardiovascular epidemiology. She also has a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) from Boston University.

Dr. Aytur serves as the Climate Justice Co-Chair for New Hampshire Healthcare Workers for Climate Action (NH HWCA) and exhibits her artwork in shows that support community health. She is deeply committed to collaborative learning that bridges the arts and science to create healthier communities.

Arts, Humanities, and Sciences: Emergent, Necessary Unities for Thinking and Dwelling as Humans-Being-on Earth

Presented by David Syring

Wednesday, November 1, 2023, 6-7pm

The Oika collaboration at the Museum of the White Mountains, led by Rich Blundell, Rita Leduc, and the Hubbard Brook Forest, represents an exciting shift in understanding ecological realities. In this collaboration Rich, Rita, and the Forest exceed usual approaches to “art-sci” work. Science, art, and being interweave to create an expansive, lively sense of each collaborator as agents in an endeavor of cosmic understanding. This work aligns with an emergent opening up of inquiry related to ecological knowledge.

This presentation and discussion will engage with the exhibit and offer insights from David’s research at Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites where he has spoken with scientists, artists, writers, and thinkers from a variety of disciplines.

Collaboration between scientists, humanities scholars, social scientists, artists, and others simultaneously challenge and potentially reinforce conventional boundaries between scientific research and other ways of knowing. In his 2004 book, Cross-pollinations: The Marriage of Science and Poetry, ecologist and writer Gary Nabhan argues that blending approaches creates better knowledge; insights arise when research opens to diverse ways of asking questions and learning answers.

Environmental science has moved towards more holistic engagements with the arts, humanities, and the social sciences; however, much of this work has seemed something like science accepting other ways of knowing simply to help “tell the stories” or visualize the findings of science. In essence, the model points to asking disciplines other than science to popularize or publicize scientific findings.

The exhibit at the Museum steps aside from this approach and offers an opportunity to think and be otherwise. Artists, humanities scholars, social scientists and others should not only be brought in at the end of projects to tell the story. We have questions, methods, and practices that enlarge knowing in crucial ways that humans need in order to be-in-the world, including at this difficult time of cultural and ecological challenges and climate change.

David Syring, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota Duluth, writes about cultures of place, the arts, plants and animals in human cultures, food systems, and sustainability. Places in the World a Person Could Walk was a Minnesota Book Award finalist. Since 2005 he has done frequent fieldwork in Ecuador, leading to With the Saraguros: The Blended Life in a Transnational World. He creates videos with Saraguro collaborators. For five years he edited Anthropology and Humanism, and he wrote an overview of humanistic anthropology for the SAGE Handbook of Cultural Anthropology. He is co-editor (with Lauren Miller) of The Routledge Companion to the Anthropology of Performance (2023). He co-founded (with Mitra Emad) the Participatory Media Lab at UMD, which serves as a collaborative space for faculty and students exploring the techniques of critically informed, digitally enhanced social research. Faculty empower students to bring critical thinking and technology skills to the larger community by creating integrated experiences on such topics as regional food systems, arts and community, ethnic identity and diversity in urban environments, water resource issues, interpreting the final statements of death row inmates and more.

During a sabbatical year research project in 2022-23, David has been looking at how Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites integrate arts and humanities inquiry into their work, as well as how LTERs engage Indigenous knowledges and communities.

Penobscot River Restoration: 10 Years After

Presented by Dan McCaw

Tuesday, October 24, 2023, 7-8pm

Please join the MWM in collaboration with the Pemi Chapter of Trout Unlimited on Tuesday October 24th at 7PM. Dan McCaw, the Fisheries Program Manager for the Penobscot Indian Nation in Maine, will present a talk entitled “Penobscot River Restoration: 10 Years After.” The Penobscot River Restoration Project was made internationally famous by its’ depth of collaboration and scope. Two mainstem dams were removed from the Penobscot River and a bypass channel constructed around another. The project was heralded around the world as innovative and a saving grace to multiple species of sea-run fish, to include the United States’ last populations of endangered Atlantic Salmon. The Penobscot Nation’s Fisheries Program Manager talks about the opportunities and challenges that still face the Penobscot River, and critical lessons learned. This event is supported by a National Endowment of the Humanities’ Spotlight on the Humanities grant for Plymouth State University’s Sustainability Studies program.

Dan McCaw was raised in Burnham, Maine and attended the University of Maine in Orono, and worked as a fish biologist from 2001-2010 with the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission and the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Since 2011, Dan has worked for the Penobscot Indian Nation’s Department of Natural Resources and works cooperatively with state, federal and NGO partners to protect, conserve and restore the Penobscot River’s migratory and resident fish species and the ecosystems on which they depend.

Pemi-TU Chapter meetings are free and open to the public, all are welcome! We will have raffle tickets available at the meeting to support sponsoring youths to attend the Barry Conservation Camp fishing session (candidates will be selected in January). Email us at with any questions or suggestions.

Making Meaning with the White Mountains

Presented by Artist Rita Leduc, Dr. Rich Blundell, and MWM Director Meghan Doherty

Wednesday, October 4, 6-7pm

We are living in a time of profound social, ecological and technological change. Each day in the modern world, market-driven media, algorithms and now artificial intelligence are gradually diminishing our evolved capacities to sense, relate to, and make meaning with nature.

Extending Ecology: Making Meaning with the White Mountains is the latest outcome of an ongoing collaboration between an artist, an ecologist, and a forest in the White Mountains. The museum exhibition features visual and textual language that reflects the intelligence reactivated in the collaborators through long-term contemplative and creative immersion in the Hubbard Brook watershed. The project is an attempt to make the intelligence of nature, called Oika, palpable so that it may travel through interdisciplinary channels and back into culture.

In this panel discussion, Dr. Rich Blundell, Rita Leduc, and MWM curator Meghan Doherty delve into ways an experimental relationship between humans and a forest has served as a model for revitalized participation with the world, writ large.

Dr. Rich Blundell is an ecologist whose work explores the convergence of science, art, nature and culture. As the founder of Oika, his research examines how transformation happens across the scales of person, place and planet. As a communicator, Rich tells a scientific story of the universe that includes art and human creativity as natural phenomena. His goal is to make the continuity of nature palpable. Dr. Blundell has received numerous grants and awards including; the ongoing TIDES Innovators, The National Science Foundation grant for Science Out There, the Brinkman Award, The Deep Time Values award, The Macquarie University Innovation in Scholarship Award, an Oculus Creators Award and nomination for the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Best New Media for Saving Grey’s Zebra. He is currently the Scientist-in-Residence at the Maria Mitchell Association on Nantucket Island.

Rita Leduc is an interdisciplinary artist who develops relationships with ecosystems through multisensory means. The understanding she gains from this approach informs endeavors on scales from environmental to societal. She is currently pursuing this work through several Oika projects; these include Extending Ecology as well as additional place-based collaborations, workshops, talks, and courses. Additional ongoing engagements include Creator/Director of the interdisciplinary GROUNDWORK retreat and member of The Place Collective, a UK-based creative research community. Leduc’s work has been shown, supported, published, presented, and workshopped widely, most recently at Stand4 Gallery (Brooklyn) and at Maria Mitchell Association (Nantucket). Leduc received her MFA from Mason Gross (Rutgers), Post-Bac Certificate from SAIC, and BA from the University of Pennsylvania. She teaches at Ramapo Collage and Rutgers University.