Wild Empathy

Wild Empathy
immersive media research and art project, 2018-19

The majority of city residents will never experience being in an old growth forest, and they may be unaware of the complexity of these interconnected ecosystems, even as their crucial value to climate change reversal becomes evidenced. It is known that our old trees play a crucial part in forest ecologies, in the health of the province, and of the planet. The removal of old-growth trees affects climate and biodiversity. This is because old trees take in vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere as a result of their growth rate that accelerates with age; they provide rich sites of biodiversity unlike newer trees and younger forests; they function as crucial hubs of networked communication and nutrient sharing activity within the forest; and they provide health benefits to people who walk within the forest. However, because of deforestation from industry and development, we have lost a significant portion of our intact forests in the province. Over the last decade, our forests have transformed from carbon sinks into carbon sources, exacerbating the effects of climate change. The Wild Empathy research asks how can art play a role in generating public awareness and care about our old trees and forests, and the role they play in ecological and public health?

The intention of Wild Empathy is to create new knowledge and immersive artworks with the goal to generate public curiosity and awareness about local forest ecologies and old trees, leading to a sense of wonder and care for their protection.

The Wild Empathy research is based on the team’s recordings of old trees in a forest location on Vancouver Island, BC. Read more

LISTEN at Soundcloud: podcasts from interviews with the team members.

Dr Julie Andreyev, principle investigator, Emily Carr University
Dr Maria Lantin, director of the Basically Good Media Lab, ECU
Simon Overstall, composer and computational aesthetics
Alex Hass, research associate, Basically Good Media Lab, ECU
Dr Deirdre Brink, independent biologist
Damien Gillis, independent documentary filmmaker
Dr David Baar, independent computer scientist
Lorenz Jimenez, independent photographer and videographer
Sean Arden, research technician in the Mixed Reality Lab, ECU
Alonso Benavente Fortes, post-production effects
Mana Hairichian Saei, research assistant, ECU
Edward Madojemu, research assistant, ECU
Michael Fowler, research assistant, ECU
Vanessa Wong, research assistant, ECU

Supported by: 
SSHRC Institutional Exchange Grant, ECU, 2019
Gillespie Design Research Grant, ECU, 2018 and 2019
Basically Good Media Lab, and the Mixed Reality Lab, ECU

Production photos:

Photo showing the incredible diversity of lichen and moss ecologies on the bark of an old Douglas fir.

Photo showing the immense scale of a Douglas fir on location. Photo by Dave Baar.


The team working on video recording using a nodal system to record 360 degree video for a VR immersive experience.

Recording ambient sounds in the forest to use in generative software to produce a soundscape of the forest location. Photo by Simon Overstall

Still image from drone footage showing canopy of old-growth location. Image courtesy of Lorenz Jimenez.





Still image from drone footage showing old growth location with clear-cut logging areas behind. Image courtesy of Lorenz Jimenez.

Still image from 360 degree stitch of nodal method video recording. Image courtesy of Sean Arden.

Still image from 360 degree stereoscopic Gopro footage shot to create an immersive VR experience (see complete 360 in the image at the top of this page).

Still image from VR headset experience. Image courtesy of Edward Madojemu.