Strategic Plan Highlights: Part 4

Arts belong in the Forest too: Broadening our Teaching and Research disciplines

In the first half of 2023, our office is reflecting on some of the major accomplishments coming out of our 2017-2022 5-Year Strategic Plan. This plan has been a pivotal one for the Forest. As we move to advance these goals and accomplishments into our next strategic plan, we thought to share some of our highlights with you.

Click to read our Plan

Goal 1. Research and Teaching

Action A.2. Foster expansion of formal teaching uses, especially by undergraduates and across novel disciplines such as arts, humanities, and medicine.

The Duke Forest is a teaching and research resource for the entire university and for researchers around the world. When most people think of a research forest, though, what comes to mind may be research instrumentation like stream gauges and weather stations, marks and flagging on trees, and classes of students in environmental programs digging in the soil or making observations on clipboards.

While the Duke Forest is home to many kinds of environmental research, as you would expect, we facilitate research across a diverse array of disciplines — computer science, electrical engineering, and even the humanities, to name a few. It has such broad educational value that even unexpected fields like the arts find roots in the Duke Forest.

During the summer of 2019, Heather Gordon, a data-visualization artist based in Durham, held a residency at the Rubenstein Arts Center, here at Duke University. Gordon conducted extensive research by exploring the vast array of data sets available in the Duke Forest Archive housed within the Duke Libraries system. She was particularly interested in finding data sets that could provide a structural basis for her unique and intricate geometric designs.

By incorporating these data sets into her creative process, Gordon was able to produce paintings, sketches, and colored-tape window installations that were not only aesthetically pleasing but also intellectually stimulating, demonstrating the close relationship between art and science. We were thrilled to have her using Duke Forest data in such a unique way. The Forest’s founders could have never imagined their data being used in this way.

Artist Heather Gordon digs into Duke Forest Archive

From our blog on 9/6/2019

Durham, NC artist Heather Gordon held residency at Duke University’s Rubenstein Arts Center this summer (2019). To inform her art, she searched the Duke Forest archive at Duke Libraries for data sets that give structure to her geometric designs. Watch this interview as she tells Duke Forest Communications and Engagement Coordinator Blake Tedder a little about her process.


Heather Gordon, Artistic Data Miner – DukeArts

Visualizing Climate Change, Self, and Existential Crises – Duke Today Research Blog

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