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Jenny Rock


Contact Phone 64 3 4795014

Jenny is part of the Science in Society stream. She is interested in the aesthetics of science:
• how aesthetics co-create science,
• and how they can be integrated into fostering a better science and society interaction.
She thinks that when we recognize more of the common ground between science and "other" (art, humanities etc) then we can begin to recast science as the human enterprise that it is. And, in so doing, make science more inclusive, interactive and engaging.

Jenny's background is diverse, including a BA in Human Ecology and a long track record in visual/creative arts from poetry to intaglio and relief printmaking. She is also a biologist with a PhD in Zoology and research encompassing multiple fields from environmental physiology to molecular ecology and evolutionary genomics. The binding link is that she finds all these fields cross-fertilise and integrate productively: our understanding of the world is only limited by our reluctance to think outside our box!

Below are some more of her interests, but see for current information on Jenny’s research & teaching.

Understanding and communicating science in its wider historical/cultural and aesthetic context:

One of the keys to communicating science effectively is finding a common ground without "us vs. them" (public vs scientist) divides. Essential to this, Jenny believes, is understanding the historical conditions and cultural ideologies that influenced our conceptualization of scientific problems in the first place. This requires a philosophical approach and understanding of our human impact on science and its relationships to society. Her background in Human Ecology has fostered long-term interests in integrating the sciences and humanities from both global and local perspectives to question: How has biology and natural science shaped our human history, and visa versa, how has our history shaped our view of biology and our environment?

Understanding the processes that shape our scientific knowledge, the structures of thought and learning, is important to communicating effectively and emotively. (It also presents lots of interesting stories in itself). Key themes Jenny promotes in her research and teaching are to think critically, to draw context (and be inspired!) at an interdisciplinary level, and to hold a responsibility to communicate.

Paradigm shifts in science:

Her scientific research has addressed several paradigms in biology, from our view of oceans and marine connectivity, to ectothermy and our assumptions of environmental stability, to genome evolution and notions of living fossils and DNA function. Jenny's research has queried assumptions and interpretations of science, and in ferreting out the historical drivers of paradigms, she’s found that in many cases the original paradigms were formed in part by assumptions stemming from an aesthetic. In other words, an aesthetic (often visual) impression of an environment, organism, or process has often shaped and entrained the hypotheses we have pursued in science. To Jenny this illustrates what bedfellows science and the arts/humanities truly are, and given this two-way interchange, how useful it is to promote their integration in the communication of science.

Crossing the science-humanities divide (Sci-Art):

Visual images can encapsulate and rapidly communicate complex scientific associations. Emotively, they can speed us to an intellectual point we’d be slow to reach with text. For these reasons alone, communicating science should involve the arts. But art is not just illustration and, though often dichotomized as 'the two cultures' it is not the opposite of science. Jenny is interested in the modern and historical drivers of this divide; philosophically she is intrigued by the commonalities of both, and so she is interested in exploring not only in their potential for cross-fertilization but also convergence.

Merging her interests in art, environment and culture she has also been involved in several animation film projects/installations that incorporate archaeology/anthropology/biology, collagraph artwork, poetry, music and folklore, to explore Celtic history from neolithic to contemporary times. (see 'Observations of an Alien', 'Mona', etc at

Jenny multiple research projects (current and future) are detailed here and a list she is particularly keen on developing collaborations on – including with new science communication students – can be found here.
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