A tropical forest themed mural spanning three walls will today be unveiled in Trinity’s 1907 Botany building. The mural makes reference to the plant hunting expeditions of the 20th century and the research carried out on tropical biodiversity and conservation by researchers and students today, linking the two together. The piece was completed by London-based artist Josephine Hicks.
Jennifer McElwain, professor of Botany in Trinity commented on the artwork saying: “Botanical art is enjoying a strong resurgence with fabrics, wallpapers and boutique hotels now adorned with lush palm leaf motifs and sepia-toned photographs from past expeditions. Perhaps this interest stems from a need to connect with the natural world and a realisation that unsustainable development in many parts of the world, including Ireland, is threatening species survival and the unique ecosystems that they occupy.”
McElwain added that in light of the biodiversity and climate emergency declared by the Irish government, “Trinity’s botanists have an important role to play in conducting high-impact research that can make a huge societal impact for current and future generations”.
“We hope the mural, which celebrates the process of science and the beauty of diversity, will act as an inspiration and reminder of that duty, underline the Botany Department’s historic and ongoing links with Thailand, and empower our students to make a difference for future climate and biodiversity.”
Speaking about her work, Hicks said: “I wanted to create an immersive painting where you are surrounded by oversized leaves, fruits and flowers, which transports you to the rich, dark and dense tropical forest. It’s been a fascinating and highly inspirational project, and I have been introduced to extraordinary species in celebrating the diversity of the area.”
The links between the Botany Department and Thailand are well-established, dating back to 1902, when a Trinity graduate, A.F.G Kerr, travelled across Thailand collecting plant samples, photographs and other artefacts. Kerr was appointed Government Botanist, first Director of the Botanical section of the Ministry of Commerce and then Director General of the Department of Agricultural Research, before returning to Europe in 1932. On his return, he donated his collections to a number of institutes, including Trinity. Today, Kerr is recognised as the ‘Father of Thai Botany’ in Thailand.
The links between Thailand and Trinity continue today, in part due to a programme of extensive fieldwork. The Botany department’s herbarium is a focal point for research on Thai flora, and the department has facilitated a significant amount of undergraduate and postgraduate researchers on the subject.
In 2014 Princess Maha Chakri Srindhorn of Thailand opened a new square outside the Botany department and planted a specimen of Rhododendron arboreum obtained specially from near Chiang Mai.