Experimental Ecologies

Experimental Ecologies creates a space to experiment with transdisciplinary methods to investigate and recalibrate human-environment relations.

Ecology - Oikos-ology, the study of our home and our relationship with it – is traditionally a biological science.audio equipment with feather attached But the planetary biosphere is now irrevocably integrated with the technosphere: we need more than biological science to understand and mend our relationships with our planetary home. For example, we now recognise that data is necessary but not sufficient to address environmental crises: we need data-based evidence, but we need to engage all our senses, we need stories, imagination and renewed friendships too. We also need to be able to understand and interpret data in its many contexts: cultural, historical, political, technological as well as ecological. At root, we need new ways to create sustainable human-environment relations. 

Image: Outdoor audio-visual installation by Alice Eldridge featuring extraordinarily electronic sounding soundscapes from a freshwater pond

Experimental Ecologies aims to develop a post-disciplinary research space where arts and humanities, natural and computational sciences, traditional indigenous knowledges and everyday experiences have an equal footing in addressing key sustainability issues at human-environment interfaces.

Experimental Ecologies reflects ongoing and emerging research, pedagogic, strategic and engagement activities with roots in the Sussex Humanities Lab, and welcomes collaboration across and beyond the University of Sussex.

Ongoing projects include:

  • Ecolistening: What can we learn about the ecological status of the natural environment through human and machine listening? What can we learn about the diversity of human-environment values by listening to what people hear?
  • Playful Ecologies: What different ways are there of being playful in nature, and how do they relate to our wider social and environmental wellbeing? What histories and politics underpin those playful practices? How might play and creativity help us to communicate better, and to foster more participatory cultures around climate change and the many difficult decisions that are arising from it?

  • Law and art beyond the human: Initiatives include: Communicating Climate Risk, Digital Humanities Climate Coalition, MAH sustainability educator

SHL researchers working in this cluster include (alphabetical order):

Colin AshbyDr Alice EldridgeJack Pay,Andy Robertson,  Dr Joseph WaltonProf David WeirSimon Wibberley


  • Communicating Climate Risk

    PI: Martine Barons (Warwick)

    Co-I: Jo Walton (SHL), Polina Levontin (Imperial), Mark Workman (Imperial)

    Funding provider: COP26 Universities Network

  • Designing the Future of Cloud Emissions Data

    Project title: Designing the Future of Cloud Emissions Data
    Principal Investigator (PI): Dr Jo Walton (University of Sussex)
    Co-Investigator (Co-I): Rory Brown (GreenPixie Ltd)
    Team: Bernie Smith (GreenPixie Ltd)
    Funder: Innovate UK
    Project dates: November 2023 – May 2024 

    Designing the Future of Cloud Emissions Data will utilise design expertise to democratize the ownership of CED. The IT sector has a considerable carbon footprint. Globally, IT’s current contribution to global heating is similar to that of all aviation, and it seems set to grow. Currently CED data is gatekept by stakeholders with significant technical knowledge. And yet less technical users such as Heads of Sustainability (HoS) need, but cannot yet access, CED for compliance, reporting, NetZero targets, and to drive change. Storing and processing data in the cloud can have extensive environmental impacts: from the electricity needed to run the data centres, to the water used to cool them, to the embodied carbon cost of constructing them in the first place. Despite all this, the cloud can feel intangible, ethereal, and very far away.

    Project website: coming soon.

  • Humanising Algorithmic Listening

    PI: Alice Eldridge (SHL)
    Co-I: Paul Stapleton (Queen’s University Belfast)

    Humanising Algorithmic Listening is an AHRC funded network which brings together experts with an interest in the applications and implications of machine listening from diverse disciplines including oral history, sensory ethnography, archive services, computer science, philosophy and music technology. The principle aim is to develop a critical and methodological agenda for the design, development and application of computational methods for audio analysis - listening algorithms - in the future.

    Funded by AHRC

    link to project

  • Sensing Wild Spaces

    The WILDSENS projects aims to integrate ecoacoustic and participatory walking methods to create maps of wilderness spaces for use by conservation actors and agencies. We are exploring ways to integrate geophysical, acoustic and ecological data with human perceptions and attitudes to wild landscapes to support better environmental decision making in the future.

    PI: Alice Eldridge (SHL)

    Co Is: Dr Roger Norum (Independent researcher (anthropology) Jonathan Carruthers-Jones (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Research Fellow, ENHANCE-ITN, University of Leeds)

    Conservation of wilderness areas is essential for future planetary and human well-being. Effective conservation policy planning must be evidence-based and represent the needs of human and non-human species alike, but methodologies that integrate ecological, geophysical and ethnographic appraisals are lacking. Traditionally, research methods that attempt to capture the diversity of complex knowledge about wilderness areas have relied upon standard methodological tools from human and physical geography (e.g. GIS, PPGIS, etc.). The WILDSENS project aims to develop innovative methods that will enable the creation of more inclusive, comprehensive and robust maps of dynamic wilderness spaces, ensuring that the voices of multiple actors are heard and represented in conservation efforts. Our key innovation is to develop ecoacoustic and participatory mapping methodologies to enable the integration of qualitative and quantitative data from ecological, geophysical and ethnographic appraisals.

  • Wildens - Making Inclusive Wilds

    PI: Roger Norum (Oulu)

    Co-I: Eldridge(SHL), Carruthers-Jones (Leeds), Hassal (Leeds)

    Funding provider: INTERACT

    Further information


Sussex Humanities Lab, SILVERSTONE SB211, Arts Road, Falmer, East Sussex, BN1 9RG

email: shl@sussex.ac.uk