Dr Cressida Bowyer
I'm a Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Science and Health and the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of Portsmouth.
I'm also Deputy Lead for the University's Revolution Plastics initiative, driving interdisciplinary research and innovation to tackle the global plastics crisis.
A biological scientist by training and having previously worked in the arts, the primary purpose of my research is to address global problems such as air quality, lung health and plastic pollution. I use transdisciplinary and participatory methodologies for action research and dissemination within the University's Sustainability and the Environment research theme.
I work on several international projects using creative methods, such as music, digital storytelling, puppetry and visual arts, to engage communities and find solutions to global issues in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
I play a central role in developing international partnerships for Revolution Plastics, including our connections with community partners, governments and academia in the global south. This includes the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding with International University Vietnam, Strathmore University, Kenya and Shahjalal University, Bangladesh.
As a founding member of the AIR (Action for Interdisciplinary Research) Network, I pioneered novel creative approaches for working with community champions in Mukuru, Nairobi, Kenya. We continue to work with these community champions in the TUPUMUE, Action Against Covid Transmission (ACT) and Sustainable Transitions to End Plastic Pollution (STEPP) projects, further developing the methodologies and delivering training workshops for community based champions.
I joined the University of Portsmouth in 2016 as a Research Fellow in Enterprise and Innovation. I was promoted to Senior Research Fellow in 2017 and became Deputy Director of Revolution Plastics in 2021.
In a previous life I was a founder member of KLF Communications, an independent record label set up to distribute music produced by The KLF. In 1992 The KLF sold more singles worldwide than any other band. We ran our own PR campaigns and were renowned for producing rather extravagant videos and TV performances. My role involved doing anything and everything, including mailing out white labels to influential DJs, art directing video shoots, choreographing non-dancers, providing vocals and jumping up and down on Top of the Pops.
I took a career break for a few years to raise my three children and then went back to school to study for a BSc. in Biological Sciences at the University of Brighton. This led on to a PhD investigating molecular pathways in cancer cells and a few years undertaking post-doctoral research in the field of biomedical sciences. These are listed in Pure profile under 'Projects' tab.
My post-doctoral projects included art-science crossover and public dissemination activities. This synthesis of different disciplines, knowledge and experience developed my innovative approach to research.
I'm currently a Researcher’s Network Champion at the University of Portsmouth and was a member of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Research Delivery group for two years
My core interests are action research and creative, participatory methods to address global health and sustainability issues such as plastic waste and air pollution. Current and recent research projects include:
- TUPUMUE'Non-communicable lung disease in Kenya: from burden and early life determinants to participatory inter-disciplinary solutions'(2019-2021).
- Clean Air, Good Health Nairobi: creative, participatory lung health research, investigating lung health in children in Nairobi (2019-2021).
- ACT (Action against COVID Transmission) Nairobi (2020).
- Sustainable Transitions to End Plastic Pollution (STEPP) ‘Catalysing sustainability transitions in cities in the global south suffering from severe plastic pollution' (2020-2021).
- Horti-BlueC' Sustainable up-cycling of agro-, agrofood and fisheries residues in horticulture and agriculture as bioenergy, biochar and chitin-rich products'(2018–2022).
Key to tackling global issues, in my opinion, is to build teams and research projects that include a wide range of stakeholders. To this end, I am interested in exploring how we can use community and participatory arts-based methodologies to ensure all voices are heard. The co-design and co-development of research helps to assure that its outcomes are socially and culturally relevant, fit for purpose and have real world impact. Creative methodologies help to explore and document lived experience, disrupt silos, overcome language barriers, break down hierarchies, and reveal unexpected findings.
This was demonstrated in the Action Against Covid Transmission (ACT) project in Nairobi, Kenya. We supported public health messaging on how to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 through a range of culturally appropriate media including songs, puppet shows, memes, murals, and a comic. We gained a greater understanding of the lived experiences of slum dwellers in the pandemic. A project report by the Stockholm Environment Institute will be published in 2021.
Creative methodologies were also very successful in the sensitisation programme for the TUPUMUE project, which explores the links between lung health and air pollution in Kenya. Puppetry was used to explain the research process to the community. This built trust and led to 900 families being willing to participate in scientific research.
Funding sources include GCRF, MRC, AHRC, NERC, Wellcome Trust, Interreg 2 Seas.
I am happy to take calls and emails from the media on my research, and am aware of the need to respond to journalists in a timely manner.
Interested journalists can contact the University's Media and Communications team for support and advice on all media engagement, including out of hours.