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 residency application cycle opens Dec 18th, with applications due January 18th. 

Artists: click here for a flyer, and here for application instructions.

Scientists: click here for application instructions

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.

Visualization of elephant seal diving patterns

By: Patrick W. Robinson (Manager, Año Nuevo Natural Reserve), and Danielle Dube (UCSC Undergraduate)

elephant seal drawingOver the past 15 years, researchers working at Año Nuevo Reserve have instrumented hundreds of northern elephant seals with biologging devices to record a wealth of information about their elusive at-sea foraging behavior.  We have learned that the seals are among the deepest diving animals on the planet and travel thousands of kilometers into the middle of the north Pacific for up to 8 months at a time - diving continuously! This research has led to dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies focused on topics as diverse as muscle physiology, sleep behavior, development of diving, navigation, persistent organic pollutants, and many more.

elephant seal drawingThe elephant seal research at Año Nuevo Reserve is particularly visible to the public with nearly 100,000 visitors per year.  One of our most effective outreach strategies has been an installation of two video screens in the public education center to highlight the research findings to the public visitors.  These screens display a variety of images and scientific figures.  Our goal is to enhance this display and generate additional outreach material by creating 'infographics' that highlight several of the research projects using engaging imagery combined with scientifically accurate information.  Danielle created a diverse array of digital paintings that highlight the functions of different dive types, the biologging instruments we use to study at-sea foraging behavior, and their feeding environments.   To create these digital paintings, Danielle worked with several researchers to ensure the imagery was both compelling and scientifically accurate.  The digital paintings will be incorporated into a diverse array of projects including:  the Año Nuevo Marine Education Center UC Santa Cruz research display, social media posts, docent training, public seminars, scientific presentations, and potentially peer-reviewed journal articles.  

Streets to Housing

By: Adam Millard-Ball (Professor, Environmental Studies) and Erin Single (Graduate student, Digital Arts and New Media)

diagram of an accessible street

Excess street space provides a potential way to mitigate the housing crisis facing coastal California cities and other urban centers. Residential lots might be extended into the existing street to create space for an accessory dwelling unit or a place to park a tiny home on wheels. Some streets might be able to host camper van parking. Others that are particularly wide or surplus to transportation needs might be turned into permanent housing. This project assess the practical feasibility of turning streets into housing, through case studies of urban design possibilities on streets in San Jose and Santa Cruz. The collaboration provides a way to explore the physical potential of specific sites, and the images will convey the possibilities to a wide variety of public, academic, and urban planning audiences.

Project Ayniqucha: A Participatory Strategy for Improvement of Artisinal Fisheries in Peru

By: Juan Carlos Jeri (Master's Student, Coastal Science and Policy) and Claire Cook (UCSC undergraduate)

peruvian fishes dreamsProject Ayniqucha proposes a participatory approach to support and assess sustainable artisanal fisheries in Peru. We propose a new assessment tool to identify risks and challenges for the sustainability of artisanal fisheries. The project also aims to highlight the role of small scale fishers as experts of the ocean and key stakeholders for its protection.  In that sense, we named this project “Ayniqucha”, which combines the words for collaborative communal work (ayni) and ocean (mama qucha) in the indigenous Quechua language. We propose to use art as a critical tool for communicating the goals and results of the project. Through the Norris Center Art-Science Residency Project and in collaboration with the artist Claire Cook, we created eleven illustrations to support the project. First, the main illustration of the project that depicts the knowledge that fishers have on the marine ecosystem. Then, a series of illustrations for a diagram of the different steps and elements of the project (i.e. data collection in artisanal fisheries, data processing, and expected results). Finally, the collaboration also resulted in the creation of a logo for the project and a model of a flyer. 

California Coastal Plant community Interpretive Signs

By: Spencer Klinefeleter (Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History) and Nina Scherer

california native plantsThe Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History worked with artist Nina Scherer to illustrate various representative plant communities found around the central coast of California and that are present in the museum gardens. The Museum has worked to redesign and enhance the surrounding space to cultivate native plant species and support the ecologies of pollinators, birds, and beneficial insects, all with the goals of educating the public and protecting local biodiversity. Each sign was originally done in watercolor and then interpretive text was added to each, highlighting key relationships and features particular to each local habitat. The signs are to be placed around the museum gardens, located in Tyrrell Park across from Seabright Beach, and will be used in school and community education programs, and will be viewable by the general public who walk through the neighborhood park. 

The main goal of these signs is to interpret the unique characteristics of several local vegetation communities that are often hidden or overlooked by many people, including the complex root systems of native plants, and the diversity of pollinators that visit flowers throughout the year. These interpretive signs will support the ongoing work by the Museum to enhance its surrounding landscapes to better support the Museum's mission to connect people with nature to inspire stewardship of the natural world. 

Visualizing the Subsurface

By: Amanda Donaldson (PhD student, Earth and Marine Sciences) and Linnéa Gullikson (undergraduate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)

the underworld with treesOur limited understanding of subsurface water movement is, in large part, due to the difficulty to access the subsurface to characterize soil and rock properties. Geophysical techniques such as seismic refraction provide two-dimensional information on subsurface seismic velocities that can reveal subsurface geologic features that exert a primary control on water movement and storage. Doctoral Student Amanda Donaldson worked with Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Undergraduate Linnéa Gullikson to improve our ability to conceptualize and communicate the subsurface physical structure by combining geophysical imagery with art to visualize the subsurface. For this residency, Gullikson created two products: 1. a watercolor abstract of vegetation within Arbor Creek Experimental Watershed (San Jose, CA) across the winter (dormant) and summer (growing) seasons and 2. digital illustration of Arbor Creek’s subsurface interpreted from geophysical surveys and in-situ boreholes. This residency allowed us to bring science and art together to holistically conceptualize the structural interactions and boundaries between vegetation, soil, weathered rock, and bedrock. The products of this art residency will serve as the foundation of conceptual models of water movement and storage in Arbor Creek Experimental Watershed. 

The Zonation of Aquatic Life in Riffles and Pools of Streams

By: David Herbst (Research Scientist, Institute of Marine Sciences) and Rae Taylor-Burns (PhD student, Ocean Sciences)

inverts-in-rifflesGetting an understanding of what goes on unseen beneath the water surface is an important part of using interpretive exhibits for aquatic environments. Unless you can get your head underwater, it is difficult to see this aquatic world.  Museums and aquariums often have displays of how rising and falling ocean tides establish life zones in rocky intertidal environments that form habitats for a diverse array of life.  Streams and rivers also show zonations of life with depth in riffles and pools that form along shallow to deep profiles as water flows downstream, but these are typically absent from interpretive exhibits. Collaboration of scientist David Herbst and artist Rae Taylor-Burns has resulted in a series of 26 multi-panel stream bug and waterscape paintings that represent stream channel habitats as an underwater view into how aquatic insects “go with the flow” of water through riffles and pools. The types of stream bed, light levels, algae films, leaf, wood, rock and sediment deposits, plunge pools, lateral bars at bends, are all represented.  Featuring selected stream insects superimposed on the waterscapes of stream habitat, the paintings also show variations in form and structure of habitat and inhabitants under a dynamic flow regime of flood to drought.  How water movement and habitats shift in proportion to current velocity over time represents between-year or seasonal changes in flow. Responses of invertebrates to flow are shown as variations in the abundance of species selected to represent classic pool and riffle fauna and their differing natural histories. Large paintings (2x3 ft) illustrate overviews and cross-sections of stream profiles showing how geomorphic and life zones are organized. This work communicates scientific findings of how stream life is distributed by habitat type and as drying occurs, providing a clear view of features shaping stream ecology and how climate change and drought impinge on aquatic ecosystems. From somewhat obtuse graphs and tables of research papers, this project has produced an effective visualization that vividly exhibits how streams work and can be used as an education tool in a variety of settings.  

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.