Name of Scientist / Researcher: Roberta Johnson


Name of Artist: Megan Cope


Art and science aren’t often viewed side by side. Science is logical whereas art is creative and not necessarily confined to the tangible. What may not be obvious to many is that science requires a large amount of creativity, from designing an experiment to communicating with each other and the public. Art is also often inspired by the natural world which science seeks to understand. In being part of a project where both science and art come together, I hope to highlight these similarities and foster a greater understanding of each field for both artists, scientists and the public. 


Field of research / interest

My research is climate change related, with a particular focus on ocean warming and acidification. Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is causing an elevation in the mean global temperature, along with a rise in sea surface temperature. It is also resulting in a reduction in ocean pH, meaning that many organisms that produce calcifying structures, such as corals, sea urchins and crustaceans, may have difficulty forming their skeleton. I am investigating the response of a local Sydney sea urchin to ocean temperature and pH levels projected for this region of Australia in 2100. In particular, I am assessing the skeletal properties of this urchin, as well as their cellular immunity and ability to maintain homeostasis. The response of this sea urchin could provide insight into how other calcifying organisms respond to a changing ocean. 

About your art practice

Megan Cope is an exciting young artist with a quickly growing profile, attracting attention for her paintings, video work, sculptural installations and site-specific commissions. A Quandamooka woman from North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, her work explores the intricate relationship between environment, geography and identity. Maps feature prominently in Cope’s work; she draws on toponymy (the study of place names) and geomorphology to decolonise myths and Australian history.


I have recently completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) at the University of Sydney. I am currently working as a Research Assistant at the University, where research is marine based with a climate change focus. I have always been passionate about the environment and conservation, which has led me to the ground level of climate change research where I feel I play an active role in establishing the science behind the change.

I have a previous degree in History and English from The University of Sydney, which I believe lends itself well to my current work. Science can be logical, but it also tells a story, and using language effectively is an important element of being able to communicate that story with the public. 


Cope’s work has been exhibited in Australia and internationally including at Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art; Gold Coast City Art Gallery; MONA FOMA, Hobart; ARC Biennial, Brisbane; Cairns Regional Art Gallery; Koori Heritage Trust, Melbourne; City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand; Para Site Contemporary Art Space, Hong Kong; Careof Art Space, Milan; the Australian Embassy, Washington and Next Wave Festival, 2014. Cope’s work will be exhibited at Musée de la Civilisation, Quebec, which has also acquired her work for their permanent collection. She undertook a Time_Space_Place: Nomad Residency 2014 awarded through Performance Space, Sydney.

Cope was commissioned to create a major site-specific work for the exhibition ‘My Country, I still call Australia Home’ at Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, 2013 and commissions for the Melbourne Museum and the Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, 2015. Cope is a member of Aboriginal art collective proppaNOW.