A queer, hard sci-fi, ‘The Water Rises’ is a short film made with oceanographer and astrobiologist Annaliese Meyer, utilising climate change science to speculate on how the world could turn out otherwise. Based on Annaliese’s creative writing, our collaboration uses speculative fiction grounded in real-world scientific processes as a means to accurately embody relationships between researchers. We seek to demystify academic discourse, providing STEM role models outside of the convention of cis-het narratives.

It’s 2051 and the sea level has risen by 60m. Two queer women scientists struggle to untangle the secrets of the past (and the potential of saving the future) stationed thousands of miles apart on the remaining outcrops of land. Told through the perspective of an archivist in 2151, the remanence of the scientists’ exchanges gives insight into the challenges faced by humanity in the mid-2050s, revealing a story of queer friendship between two women who unearthed something otherworldly in their desire to understand the biochemical makeup of the ocean.

‘The Water Rises’ narratives will play out concurrently across two screens through handheld footage, microscope images, old samples, maps and data modelling, overlaid with a soundtrack of underwater recordings and a voiceover developed from mine and Annaliese’s voice messages. The visuals will be up-close, intimate and unsettling, utilising this to create tension, disclosing stories that may be fantastical or perhaps (and most disturbingly) real.

The aesthetic will allude to near future sci-fi currently prevalent in cultural imagination, while maintaining a realism drawn from our lived experiences anchored in a familiar aesthetic. The narrative will play out in stops and starts. As the visuals unravel and overlap, strange things happen as the scientists grow closer. Uncovering life that behaves unexpectedly, they begin to question what they have discovered. Alien microscopic lifeforms? Causation or salvation in the struggle to counter the water rising?

Drawing on our own connection, the film reflects on queer friendship as a possible means to rethink knowledge production. Acknowledging our privilege as Western white women, the film will position the problematic nature of the white saviour complex and objectivity of science alongside the potential of queering research to remodel social responsibility to the planet. 

Annaliese Meyer is currently a PhD researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute studying ocean metalloproteins and metal cycles, with a particular interest in their applications to astrobiology. Colloquially, this means that when not actively at sea, Annaliese hangs out on Cape Cod, filters a lot of water, measures minute amounts of dissolved metals, and thinks about aliens. Annaliese is also interested in space policy, particularly surrounding planetary protection and the intersection of international policy development with the private space sector. She was born and raised on the west coast of Canada, on the unceded and traditional territory of the Musqeam, Kwantlen and Qayqayt First Nations. She attended the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island for her undergraduate degree in microbiology, which stands on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen peoples, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples hold historical and ongoing relationships with this land.

Annaliese is a queer woman who has struggled with depression and anxiety, her research and policy work occasionally converges between STEM topics and social issues. Outside of research, Annaliese has worked as a science communicator and was a long-standing public educator and telescope operator at the University of Victoria Astronomy Open House.

Annaliese work experience includes: Visiting Researcher, Van Krandendonk Lab/Handley Lab, University of New South Wales, Australia/University of Auckland, New Zealand (2020); CABIOS Intern, Grundle Lab, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (2018–2019); Research Assistant, Cullen Lab, University of Victoria, Canada (2018–2019); Research Assistant for Fukushima InFORM Project, Cullen Lab, University of Victoria, Canada (2017–2018); and Payload Science Lead for UVic Rocketry Team, University of Victoria. Annaliese has published research in Earth and Planetary Science Letters and Atmosphere-Ocean.

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