Global animal movements based on Movebank data
Animation by Matthias Berger
Creative-Commons-Lizenz mit Quellenangabe (Wiederverwendung erlaubt)
The Encounters Lab is an interdisciplinary research-led project that spans science and speculative design. The platform serves as a space to speculate about possible impacts in ecosystems and to communicate potential consequences for our human lives, initiated by the reconfiguration of the Earth´ s species communities, following climate change.

What happens, if two species that have never interacted before are now going to encounter, due to anthropocentrically changed climatic circumstances?

We are currently experiencing a global redistribution of life on Earth. Across all ecosystems species are shifting their distributions in response to recent and ongoing climate change in order to track their preferred climatic conditions. This creates novel species interactions, as species that have evolved in isolation from one another come into contact for the first time. With this shift in global animal movement patterns species will not only cross into new habitats but also new geopolitical areas. Moreover, shifts in foundation species can initiate cascading effects on other species and act as biotic multipliers of climate change. An ecological momentum of its own has been generated, that evolved out of our history of anthropogenic impact on biological processes.

The Encounters Lab serves as a research and communication platform; as a space to conduct research in the specific direction of Species Redistribution Ecology and as an interface to communicate to a broader audience via the craft of Speculative Design. In the understanding of a new form of exploratory knowledge library and as an on-going project, the lab grows along with new scientific findings.
The platform establishes a bridge between researchers, scientists and designers, to provide fertile ground for imagining possible futures.

Approach: Facts with Fiction
Drawing on the latest scientific studies from the field of Species Redistribution Ecology the investigations build on empirically documented facts. Rooted in science with a speculative outlook into the future - combing facts with fiction - the lab follows an approach of “joint forces“.

Serving as a tool to anticipate encounters and possible impacts and to test future scenarios the lab integrates uncertainty as a key element into future planning by drafting multiple visions of possible futures. No-one knows what the shift in species distribution will trigger in detail, but we know for sure that the dynamics generated by first encounters unleashes a chain of consequences for human lives. Against this backdrop the craft of speculation reaches new dimensions, navigating uncertainty.

Methodology: Anticipatory Ecology meets Speculative Design
Via the craft of speculation and visual storytelling, the platform reaches out to a wider public to communicate empirical facts by transforming them into emotional realities. Visualizing the complex ecological network and implications The Encounters Lab makes scientific findings accessible in form of an intuitive understanding, creating a more democratic discourse of this urgent subject matter.

The mission of The Encounters Lab is to foster planetary inter-species dependencies and to create visions of a multi-species society. The lab displays the entanglements of all species on the planet through their interactions and through trophic cascades. By re-establishing cause-consequence connections that got lost in complexity the long-term goal of this platform is to include other species in processes of geo-political decision making.
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