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M.Phil in Environmental Humanities outputs


Short film: Symbiotic Narratives: A Natural History of Irish Lichens

This is not a conventional film. It’s a film about how the “history” of lichens is told, and how narratives of discovery can sometimes be part of that history.

The film shows this through back-and-forth stories between human and non-human actors. Meanwhile, lichens continue to challenge our understanding of living organisms today, being a symbiotic association between a fungus and algae. That’s why the film is called “Symbiotic Narratives”.

Yet, it’s also about the life of the Irish naturalist Matilda Knowles, and her lichen collection from the early 1900s that is kept at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. It’s also about a contemporary naturalist named Paul Whelan, who shows us the seashore species, Lecanora gangaleoides, at Cork Habour, and collects a sample as Knowles did, which ended up in a postcard as the object of scientific scrutiny.

The fact that the student is telling her own story, too, adds another layer. She’s not just passing on information, but also building new histories through film. This is how the audience is told that there is no one story, but a story within a story within a story – what Mary Terrall has called “nested narratives”.

M.Phil Student, Environmental History, & Producer: Gina Castellheim. Filmmaker: Kate Savin