Art-Science Residency Program

The goal of the Norris Center Art-Science Residency program is to fund and support creative communication opportunities for science research, and student artist professional development.

The next round of applications for Art-Science Residents is open now. Application instructions are here for both artists and scientists, and are due January 14th 2020.

Thanks to our partners at the OpenLab collaborative research center at UC Santa Cruz for providing additional project funding and artist facilities. 

Below are descriptions of past projects completed through the Art-Science Residency program.

Finding Nemo Through a Queer Lens: This Time With the Correct Biology

By: Paloma Medina (PhD Student, Biomolecular Engineering) and Jessie Kendall-Bar (PhD Student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)

Nemo chatting with two fishes.Finding Marla is a reimagination of Finding Nemo through a Queer lens. In reality and off the big screen, clownfish like Nemo and Marlin are sequential hermaphrodites and transform from male to female when the matriarch of their colony is removed, such as by death. Once Nemo’s Mother had left, Marlin, being the next biggest fish in the colony, would have transitioned to become the female matriarch. Through this residency, Ms. Medina and Ms.Kendall-Bar worked together to create the text and illustrations for the picture book Finding Marla. This book showcases the sexual diversity of the clownfish and gender diversity in nature.

Participating in the residency affected Ms. Medina’s teaching and research through supporting her interest by translating ideas from my research to positive messages that many people can have access to. The financial and artist-matching support from the Norris Center supported her passion for education and outreach. She learned that working with an artist was a challenging and good practice to use words and metaphors to communicate her research without jargon.

Testing Flower-Pollinator Co-Evolution Using Printed Artificial Flowers

By: Kathleen M. Kay (Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), Rossana Maguiña (PhD Candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), and Colleen Jennings (MFA student)

a 3d printed flower!The participants in this art/science collaboration explored how changes in plant floral traits shift from one pollinator group to other, a process plays a role in the formation of new species. They used the neotropical spiral gingers (genus Costus) as a study system in Costa Rica and Peru. In this plant group, hummingbird pollination has evolved independently from orchid bee pollination many times over a couple million years. Flowers pollinated by orchid bees and hummingbirds differ in several floral traits, such as flower length, the presence of landing platform, the presence of visually contrasting nectar guides and flower color. The goal was to determine which of these traits attract or deter bees versus hummingbirds in order to understand how natural selection by those pollinator types could drive these pollinator shifts and cause speciation.

To answer this question, Dr. Kay and doctoral student Rossana Maguiña worked with Ms. Jennings to manipulate the floral traits of 3-D printed artificial flowers to quantify pollinator responses. Ms. Jennings designed and printed the artificial flowers that individually alter traits, such as the flower length, the presence/absence of a landing platform, the presence/absence of nectar guides, and the pale versus red overall color. These flowers were exposed to natural pollinators in the field and they analyzed pollinator’s foraging behavior. Pollinators did not visit 3D printed flowers in the field but they visit them in a cage (a controlled environment). They will continue to modify the materials used to try to create more realistic flowers to and test the pollinator response.

Evolutionary Ecology of Plant Disease

By: Gregory Gilbert (Professor, Environmental Studies), Ingrid Parker (Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Joshua Zupan (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Art, double major)

plant life cycle drawingMr. Zuppan created images to accompany a text written by Dr. Parker and Dr. Gilbert titled “The Evolutionary Ecology of Plant Disease”. Detailed life-cycle illustrations of the plant pathogens include both macroscopic and microscopic features and were selected based on attributes of the various life cycles. The illustrations show both key processes for the pathogen (sexual and asexual reproduction steps) and the disease (dissemination and survival), depicting structures and features of the pathogens in the context of the life cycle and natural history of the diseases. 


Enviro Envision

By Kathleen Deck (MFA Art 2019) and Alex Jones (Manager UC Campus Reserve)

advertisement for a redwood art showUsing UCSC Natural Reserve data, research, and projected future scenarios, Ms. Deck created visually accurate paintings of the UC Santa Cruz upper campus reserve that can be navigated by the public. This interactive projection encourages a non-linear exploration of the narrative of a changing Santa Cruz Coastal Redwood ecosystem. By working with Mr. Jones she was able to depict research through audio recordings and visual imagery that share the complex interactions within an ecosystem and the effects of climate change on our local environments, thus enhancing public understanding.

Illustrating Tropical Forest Restoration in Costa Rica

By: Karen Holl (Professor, Environmental Studies), and Michelle Pastor (Environmental Studies major)

A drawing of animals in a reforested forestProfessor Karen Holl and Doctoral Student Andy Kulikowski worked with Environmental Studies Undergraduate Michelle Pastor on science and illustrations related to their research on tropical forest restoration. Dr. Holl and colleagues have a now 15-yr long study of three different strategies to restore tropical forest replicated at 12 sites in southern Costa Rica. As the forest has developed in the experimental sites, it has become increasingly difficult to represent the changes in forest structure through photographs. For this residency, Ms. Pastor created three products: 1. a graphical pen-drawing abstract of vegetation recovery at the sites, which is posted online at the journal Applied Vegetation Science; 2. Three color drawings illustrating their restoration treatments after 15 years. 3. A pen and ink drawing of the insect-trophic cascade system of graduate student Andy Kulikowski. All these drawings are being used in talks and scientific papers.

The residency helped the researchers to communicate a complex system to a general audience. Their restoration plots are shaded and are large enough that a single photograph doesn't illustrate all the characteristics of the system. The slightly stylized drawings allowed them to emphasize certain characteristics that would be difficult to see in the photo such as the straight lines of trees in their plantation restoration treatment vs. the much more heterogeneous trees in the natural recovery treatment. They could also illustrate a representative number and types of birds in the forest, which they’d never get in a single photo.

Joshua Tree Symbiosis in Stop-Motion Animation

By: Juniper Harrower (PhD, Environmental Studies), and Grace Ackles (Anthropology major)

Stop motion still image of an animated human sitting under a Joshua Tree

For this art/science collaboration, Dr. Harrower has translated her doctoral research into a narrative for stop motion animation. Joshua trees are under threat from climate change. Her ecological research focuses on how the plants are reproducing across Joshua Tree National Park, and whether the plants' key symbiotic interactions will be affected by the changing climate. Dr. Harrower and Ms. Ackles worked together to create a vision for the stop motion animation based on Ms. Harrower’s research. They created a highly detailed eight-minute animation that involved many other collaborators. This is currently being set to a musical score by noted cellist Erin Wang, and they will be submitting it to film festivals upon completion. They also created a second (much shorter and simpler) stop motion animation with a voice narrative to use as a descriptive example of Ms. Harrower’s research. 

Dr. Harrower works as both an artist and a scientist ( but learned in this collaboration that the more time she spent explaining the science, the better Ms. Ackles could bring in her own ideas and perspective to the artwork. She learned that in giving Ms. Ackles some creative freedom with the project let to greater engagement and an overall better product quality.

Illustrating the Diverse Research at the Long Marine Lab

By: Betsy Steele (Research coordinator at UCSC Long Marine Lab) and Willow Mosely (Art major)

cycle of research at long marine labLong Marine Lab Research Coordinator, Betsy Steele, proposed an artistic and visual representation of the types of research performed at LML and in the field - with the hard work of Willow Moseley, it quickly became more than just an idea. Steele and Moseley had many in-depth conversations about the project and Moseley was highly receptive to the dynamic images and concepts asked of her. Together, they created a piece that not only reflects the diverse types of research at LML, but it is also a study in community ecology. The final artwork will be displayed in 3 different places on the Coastal Science Campus.


The Complex Life Cycles of Trout

By Ashley Ersepke (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major) and Devon Pearse (Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and NOAA research scientist)

trout and DNA in the stream and out in the seaWorking with Dr. Pearse, Ms. Ersepke created a striking and descriptive illustration depicting genetic and life cycle differences between Rainbow and Steelhead trout. In this species, some individuals live in freshwater their entire lives and are known as Rainbow Trout, while other individuals transform from juveniles into migratory 'smolts', swim to the ocean, grow, and then return to freshwater as adults to spawn. These individuals are known as steelhead and are listed as threatened and endangered in California. This illustration points to the genetic differences that Dr. Pearse and colleagues discovered which relate to the differences in life history and the developmental outcomes of the different types of fish.


Sampling DNA in the Klondike

By: Trenton Kaufeldt-Lira (Art major)  and Sabrina Shirazi (PhD candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) 

edna reimaginedTo explain several aspects of environmental DNA, Mr. Kaufeldt-Lira and Ms. Shirazi created a motion graphics animated video. The viewer follows a group of researchers who go to the Klondike territory of Canada to learn about the modern and ancient environment.  The animated character sends a fictional drone into the ground that allows us to shrink down to the size of DNA and see where it is coming from, what it looks like, and what happens to it in soil. The drone utilizes ‘magnifying lenses’ (which in real practice are DNA primers) to identify what organisms the DNA originates from. This allows the viewer to see the abundance of DNA from different taxa in a system. The drone then travels further into the ground to investigate ancient environmental DNA, allowing an image of the past environment in the location they stand. The questions addressed through this animation are: What is environmental DNA? Where does it come from? What happens to it in soil? What happens to it through time? What can we learn from it? What are some tools that allow us to filter what we see?

Thermal Imagery and Mammal Diversity in a Time of Changing Temperatures

By: Terri Williams (Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), and Sofia Vermeulen (Anthropology major)

a thermal image of an otterThe goal of this collaboration is to engage students of all ages as well as the general public in the science of thermal diversity in terrestrial and aquatic mammals. Dr. Williams collected infrared thermal images of a wide range of animals at UC Santa Cruz and in collaborating zoological parks.  These were used to create thermal profiles for each species. Ms. Vermeulen helped to create a science coloring book, award stickers, and a logo for Thermal Safari, an education program about the impacts of global warming for children and adults. Utilizing her bold images, she is working on a graphic for a book cover and scientific illustration regarding the impacts of noise on narwhals.

These images enable students and the public to quickly understand the scientific concepts that Dr.Williams is studying. She will be using them in teaching her physiology courses, in public lectures, books and in scientific articles.


Oral and Illustrated Histories for Micronesian Reef Conservation

By: Nicole Crane (Professor of Biology), and Charlotte Grenier (Environmental Studies and Art double major)

Image of the Micronesia storytelling bookOne People One Reef (OPOR) ( is a team of scientists from UCSC and other institutions, working together with Micronesian Outer Island community members since 2011, to advance adaptive management and conservation of coral reefs and associated resources. These autonomously governed communities are stewards for more than half a million square kilometers of ocean. They work closely with local communities to link traditional management and knowledge with modern science to better understand the nature of ecological and cultural change and their combined effect on resource management. Since these islands have strong oral storytelling traditions, they plan to develop this summary as an audio narrative, accompanied by an illustrated transcript. The narrative will be organized in several sections or ‘stories’ describing effective management practices applied over the past 7 years focusing on traditional management practices and the science that supports them. They will weave the science into the stories with data we have collected from local reefs, and empirical evidence from other studies.

Charlotte also wrote a Norris Center Blog post about her time in Micronesia.

Almond Ecologies

By: Allyson Makuch (PhD Student Environmental Studies) and Emily Reisman (PhD candidate Environmental Studies)

almond trees growing in two different areasMs. Reisman and Ms. Makuch collaborated to create a series of illustrations that represented the social and environmental relationships of almond agriculture that Ms. Reisman is tracing in her doctoral research. Some of the illustrations by Ms. Makuch represent diverse ways of “reading care” on the almond landscape. For example, in Spain it is not uncommon to see lichen benignly growing on almond trees; yet, many government officials see the lichen and “read” the lichen’s presence as carelessness. This particular reading of care has political consequences on the landscape. By illustrating some of the technological, agroecological, discursive, and biophysical relationships embedded in this system they are also hoping to disrupt traditional representations of the almond tree with the intention of making space for new conceptualizations of the organism.

Natural History Illustrations and Global Environmental Change in Central Italy

By: Andrew Matthews (Professor, Anthropology) and Hannah Caisse (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major)

to be honest, it's just a treeIllustrations by Ms. Caisse will be incorporated in a book that Dr. Matthews is writing about the intersection of history and anthropology, where he uses drawings as a source of evidence and theoretical arguments. This book, provisionally entitled Plant Politics, describes landscape history and the politics of forests, sustainable energy, and climate change in central Italy. In this book I argue that a re-imagined natural history and landscape ethnography that make extensive use of natural history illustrations can help us make sense of global environmental change.



Whale Behavior Through a Photographer's Lens

By: Ari Freedlander (Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), and Andrew Baca (Environmental Studies major)

sketches of whalesDr. Freedlander and Mr. Baca collaborated to create a set of images depicting different whales to communicate new findings on how whales thrive in a hostile ocean. Mr. Baca created realistic images of the whales that Dr. Freedlander is using to compare how the body plans of these whales change from species to species with differences in size. For example, is a minke whale that is relatively small, the same shape as a much larger blue whale? These products will be incorporated into a manuscript on scaling in feeding morphology of baleen whales.

Participating in the residency gave Dr. Freelander a new appreciation for how to communicate his science to non-scientists to come up with new outcomes and products.