Dataset's Dream header

If data could talk, what would it say to us in this time of declining populations of our beautiful butterflies & moths?

Illuminated glass sculptures in woodland at night
A winter-dark wood
and part of the Dataset’s Dream
(Photographer: Ewelina Ruminska)

The Dataset's Dream is a curious, sorrow-full, hope-full, data-full installation by artist Bryony Benge-Abbott and poet Thomas Sharp, created in collaboration with scientists at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology from the DECIDE project. Poetic narrative and illuminated glass ‘cocoon-caskets' guide us on a journey into the world of big data, exploring the importance of both cataloging the natural world and of touching it with our imaginations. What is lost and what is gained when we turn nature into data?

Visitor recommendations:

“A memorable experience which captures the joy and beauty from observing wildlife alongside the knowledge of problems and loss in the environment.”

“…a lovely atmosphere, quite ethereal and very meditative.” 




Listen to the Dataset's Dream

Play the audio poetic narrative for the installation by tapping the play button (➤) below (18 mins).

To download the audio to your device, tap on the three dots (⋮) below and select 'download' (18MB).

More information

Visit the artist's website for more information.

You can download a written version of the full text.

You can view a film of the installation (6 mins) including interviews with visitors, artists and scientists.

Public installations of this project have been held at:

Are you inspired by this dream of environmental data?

Why not take part in recording wildlife? It is a fun activity and records are used to protect nature. Visit the Biological Records Centre for information or, for butterflies, download the iRecord Butterflies app.

The Dataset's Dream is part of the DECIDE project, funded by NERC, which seeks to support volunteers in recording nature where it matters and so support enhanced monitoring of biodiversity. This is vitally important in this time of biodiversity crisis, both to track changes in species, but also to assess the impact of positive actions for nature. The research is undertaken with seven other partners.


Illuminated glass sculptures at JASMIN supercomputer and data store
The scientists and artists involved with the Dataset's Dream at the JASMIN supercomputer where analysis of the UK's butterfly and moth dataset was carried out. Left to right: Michael Pocock, Bryony Benge-Abbott and Tom August. (Photographer: Ewelina Ruminska)


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