Plantlab 22 Northland Research Group

The PlantLab researchers have been collaborating and supporting each other’s research goals since late 2021. They represent a range of cultural, disciplinary and philosophical backgrounds and have a love of nature and passion for plants in common.

Dr Maggie Buxton (Creator and Producer of PlantLab)

Maggie is a transdisciplinary practitioner and producer of innovative projects that support the spirit of people, places and spaces. 

PlantLab is the latest in a series of cross-disciplinary innovation labs that Maggie has created in Northland, New Zealand via AwhiWord

Set up in an empty shop, PlantLab is part interactive installation, part creative research hub and part exhibition and artist capability building hub. It is designed to venerate all things plant, celebrate experimental creativity in Northland and support the regeneration of the CBD post COVID 19.

For more about Maggie go to 

FB and IG @drmaggiebuxton

Alan Thomas and Vivian Thonger (ThoTho)

Vivian Thonger is a short-form writer, poet and actor. Building on a background in psychology she hones her skills with Northland groups, including the Kerikeri Theatre Company and the Bay of Islands Writing Group. Her written work has been long- and shortlisted and won in flash fiction competitions, and appeared in print and online. She is a wordsmith and collaborating artist at CollaboratioNZ, a biennial multi-disciplinary art event held at Whangarei Heads.

As a biomedical research scientist, Alan Thomas investigated the deep complexity within living systems. With artistic interests influenced by recent concepts in neurobiology and evolutionary theory, Alan’s practice explores relationships between materials and systems and the ways in which humans create versions of the world.

PlantLab Research: ThoTho are exploring the interplay between measurement and inference, drawing on a mix of graphical, sampling, sculptural and projection techniques to question how plants might be understood. Through playing with ideas and materials, ThoTho generates lines of enquiry for PlantLab combining simple rules with aesthetic selection decisions that lead to unexpected places. Books have preserved human thought and ideas throughout recorded history. 83% of all life on earth is plants. Books are made from plants. Based on their own rules, ThoTho compiled excerpts from page 83 of over 500 of their books. These excerpts have been used to create a series of 83 Phloems that make transitory visits to PlantLab, 83 Extracts from plants in nine varietals (referencing the nine historical muses of ancient Greece) and 83 divining cards forming The Xylemancer.

Video Interview

Kelly Kahukiwa 

Kelly Kahukiwa (Ngāti IO, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngai Tūhoe and Te Aitanga -ā Māhaki) is an artist, musician, intercultural leader and indigenous researcher.

 Kelly’s artistic practice spans many contemporary and traditional forms, including taonga whakairo and taonga pūoro. He is an experienced performer and cultural teacher who explores and exhibits his sound and visual arts practice across various contexts.

 In addition, he has over twenty years of experience working in leadership roles, including significant positions in intercultural mediation, cultural capacity building, urban marae leadership and inter-operational management. He is also an experienced intercultural and youth educator who is fluent in spoken and written Te Reo Māori as well as Tikanga Maori.

 Kelly initiated Te Reo Ngaro o te Rākau/The Hidden Voices of Trees to reconnect people back into the native bush environment, using indigenous research methods and scientific listening devices on native tree species. Listening to tree audio emissions at ultra-frequencies may unlock extra clues to behaviour in native species during events, including drought, water uptake, chronobiological cycles, seasonal variations and invasive pathogen crises. 

Video Interview

Kim Newall

Kim Newall (MCT) is a creative technologist, performance artist and educator. His multimedia practice includes immersive real-time performance and interactive and generative installations. Kim’s passion is applying emerging and creative technologies (such as Augmented Reality, Arduino, IoT) within community-based settings and with grassroots audiences. Kim regularly appears at large festivals like Rhythm and Vines, Splore and Northern Base and works in gallery settings. Kim has a Master of Creative Technologies and has taught a wide range of digital practices at AUT and NorthTec as well as at the community level.

PlantLab Research: Kim is working with plant sensors and plant biodata (and climate change data), linking them to his real-time visual performance practice via 3D printing, hacking and manipulation via original algorithms.

Jade Morgan

Jade is an educator and digital media artist interested in creative tech, mixed media and the Internet. Her cross-disciplinary practice has included installations both physical and online.
Jade has always had a strong interest in the relationships between the supernatural and the natural worlds, multiverses, the thin veil and wairua. Most recently, she has discovered the world of grief, gratitude and guidance through spiritualism, which has fused into her creative practice. Her work interweave’s found objects, collected sounds, natural mandalas and interactive mobile to create moving experiences that connect the audience intimately to these themes. Jade owns a lifestyle bush block near Whangarei and works actively in partnership with her land.

PlantLab Research:

Jade is researching how humans connect to plants through memories. She is exploring why certain plants and places imprint more than others and how they are connected (e.g. through feelings and vibrations). 

She has been experimenting with making organic cold-pressed soap. These experimental pieces capture the memories of those who have passed over through infusing natural elements, botanicals, colour and scent (much of which has been sourced on her property). The experiments have unexpectedly revealed various creatures and objects once the soap is cut, reminiscent of a process similar to her digital practice using the medium of glitch. She is now experimenting with turning the soap into digital art – taking it back into a more ethereal form. The evolving work is called ‘In Memory of’

Jade asks visitors to PlantLab to share their experiences and memories of plants via the QR Code link and will transfer this material into further projects as her research evolves.

Video Interview

Tracey Willms Deane 

Inspired by nature at all levels, Tracey’s cross-boundary practice includes biology, ecology, visual arts (especially sculpture and printmaking), music, and writing. She also has several decades of experience in business, teaching, and empowering others to well-being and creativity.

Tracey has a Diploma (Hons) in Creativity & Art (The Learning Connexion, Wellington, a Bachelor Applied Arts (NorthTec), and He Puawai (Te Wananga o Aotearoa).  She is particularly inspired by the study of ancient knowledge and customs along with innovative methods, technology, and experimental research. 

Tracey and her husband live in the Whangarei District on land they are rehabilitating for native groves around the waterways, a permaculture food forest, and a centre for creative practitioners. 

PlantLab Research: 

Tracey is exploring our relationship with life through understanding the flow and ecology of microplants (called phytoplankton). These organisms provide over half of the oxygen on earth – the air we need to breathe. Most of us now know the forests are an ‘Earth lung’ but did you know the oceans provide the other lung?

Marine phytoplankton is a global ecosystem spiralling through the oceans, capturing carbon and producing 60-70% of our life support system. We only notice them en masse. Sometimes we see them forming either bioluminescent tides which glow in the dark, or in toxic bloom “red tides” (which are only a rebalancing of the ecosystem). 

Tracey’s research explores the shapes and flows of liquid, air, and this phytoplankton via woodcut print-making processes and using plant-based pigments and inks. Alongside the ink experiments is an exploration of bioluminescence (light produced by living plants & animals).  She is experimenting with creative technology to create interactive experiences for the audience, who will be invited to not only look but also to touch selected prints and discover their response.

Video Workshop

Fiona Douglas

Fiona is a scientist, teacher, community leader, coach, artist and passionate activist for arts and the environment. Her initial training was in science, with qualifications at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in agriculture and education. She has worked as an agronomist, lectured in Biology, Botany and Environmental Science and worked for the Department of Conservation in Australia as an education officer.

 Alongside her scientific, teaching and coaching activities, Fiona also has a strong background in arts. Her artistic practice includes creating documentaries on environmentally related subjects such as the recovery of the Pateke (NZ Brown Teal) and painting, sculpting and whakairo (carving).  

A passion for sustainability and holistic environmental practices has led Fiona to train in dowsing and earth energies, Maori plant use and vernacular house design. She has run tours through Australian National parks and is a protector and observer (along with Mark, her husband) of 6.5 hectares of native bushland regrowth near Pukenui forest, Whangarei.

PlantLab research: Fiona’s current favourite theories stem from research conducted by Victor Schauberger in the 1930s into the nature of nature. Living water, geometric shapes, slowing things down, and water and electricity as essences inform her work. She is also currently learning about plant-based methods of tanning and dyeing; slab work and glazing with clay; building a food forest through scaffolding life; regenerative practices for restoring and improving life; sound, shape and colour influences on energy;  and looking for holes in “theories’’ that have become mainstream rhetoric, especially in the areas of tiny creatures and human beings relationships to them

Video Interview

Dr Tracey M. Benson

Tracey lives in Australia and is visiting PlantLab as our international resident artist. Her local site is in Bribie Island, Brisbane.

Tracey is an Australian-based interdisciplinary artist, UX designer, researcher and founder of Treecreate. She is passionate about more-than-human design and bridging the links between western ways of thinking with experiential and interconnected knowledge.

Tracey works at the nexus of media arts, digital transformation, ecological systems and citizen empowerment. Her work focuses on issues related to belonging, place, well-being and pro-environmental behaviour change. Walking is central to her creative practice of exploring locative and augmented media tools to engage audiences to see their places with fresh eyes.

Her work has been extensively presented internationally in media arts festivals and exhibitions. With a passion for understanding different knowledge systems and engaging audiences, she often collaborates with Indigenous communities and Elders, historians, technologists and scientists. She lectures internationally and holds adjunct positions at the University of Canberra, the More than Human Lab at Victoria University, Wellington, NZ, the eXtended Reality Collective at Charles Sturt University and is an Advisor for the TransArt Institute

Tracey recently co-designed and facilitated the international program Meeting of the Waters: Locative Media Oceania in collaboration with Supercluster, hosted by the Centre for Applied Water Science at University of Canberra. She is listed as an expert with the Australian Academy of Science for her work on citizen engagement and behaviour change around energy and household sustainability. Website:

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