Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stories generate culture

Field science has not always done a great job of connecting itself to the broader culture in a way that resonates. Left with a vacuum, politicians and the media often step in to help the public figure out what emerging science means. Their messages are not always what the scientific community would prefer.

Gwen provided this link to an excellent report that points out that, "Our brains are designed for stories. They are the best way for us to grasp deep truths. Understand a complicated sprawl of facts." The document provides some interesting ideas about using story to convey messaging.

Researchers in many fields are discovering hard evidence that stories shape culture. This video suggests that the even the scientific theories of seminal thinkers like Darwin were shaped by their literary preferences, and not always toward greater accuracy.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Art Neuro

"Art Neuro is exploring the world of neuroscience through the visual arts to provide an exciting, thought-provoking and unique visual experience. We have teamed up 16 artists and 16 neuroscientists to work together in pairs to illustrate the importance of current neuroscience research. The artists will be immersed in this fascinating world of science, which will culminate in a collection of artworks that communicate their experience and the science behind it."

The Art Neuro exhibition took place last month in London. The project blog has great videos of presentations and posts from some of the artists about their projects.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

SARAS 2014 Workshop on Art Science Collaborations



Fred Swanson (H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest) is presenting at a workshop about art/science confluence, hosted by the South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability (SARAS). Fred will be discussing the emergence of arts/humanities at sites of long-term ecological research in the US.

The meeting is to be held in Uruguay this December. Here is an outline of the agenda, and a description of the event framework.
"The three day workshop for 30-­40 attendees will focus on the opportunities and challenges that emerge when we try to bring together disciplines that have been historically divided. It will be followed by a one day public conference at which we will share our findings with a public of several hundred regional stakeholders."
From Fred:
"Hard to tell what some of the presentations will be about, but I just watched some videos of the Bjordem-Scheffer art-science collaboration and they are interesting - easy to google up. Scheffer was just featured in a couple-page story in Science about this work on ecological tipping points."
I'll update this post with more information after the meeting.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Survey results

The results of the recent survey of FSML art/humanities programs are in. You can view the complete results online here, or download

You might also see Philippe Cohen's list of art programs at FSMLs for the 2012 OBFS Annual Meeting.

Here are the comments from the current survey:


A few scientists work with artists in an episodic/opportunity-based way to encourage science-inspired art, such as river acoustics providing a "musical score" for dance. Occasional retreats by arts/humanities programs provide a forum for artistic composition.
11/13/2014 3:19 PM View respondent's answers
We offer an 8-week Environmental Writing and Great Lakes Literature course (300 level, 5 UM semester credits) and a non-credit , 5-day Art in Nature course (drawing and painting) for adults.
11/12/2014 11:49 AM View respondent's answers
Currently we: 1. Recruit art and writing classes to come to the Preserve 2. Develop service learning projects with classes to take on projects we need done 3. Collaborate and seek funding for cross-disciplinary projects (arts and sciences). We are interested in developing an art and science residency program. This will likely require new overnight facilities which we currently lack at all of our Preserves. In designing our new facilities, we are including working space for artists. One other comment -- I think FSMLs need to expand to work with all disciplines. For example, why leave out Business and Economics? Seems like we should work with those students as well.
11/11/2014 5:34 PM View respondent's answers
I love the idea of a working group centered on art.
11/11/2014 3:17 PM View respondent's answers
credit classes En Plein Air Ecopoetics (which explores the environmental and ecology through poetry). We feature nature poets frequently. Liz Bradfield is a whale scientists/naturalist poet and the bomb ( We have our own Nantucket Field Station Press, we sponsor writing workshops for adults and kids and integrated art, music and poetry exhibitions. Writing and poetry and art and completely integrated into our K-12 program (invasive crabs and HP Lovecraft art comics stories and poetry this past summer) and Ecopoetics, photography and En Plein art are taught at the collegiate level. We host weekly writing workshops and joint science and photography shows. Recently I did a oceanography lecture skewering Ernest Hemingway during a Literary Roast in Boston at the Oberon Theater surrounded by burlesque performers drag queens and poets.I have a list of 3-4 illustrators that offer science illustration. About 20 painters teach outdoor painting classes here and in the summer it is common for painters to be spread around. I'll put more on the blog about this,
11/7/2014 2:49 PM View respondent's answers
The Estate offers onsite studio space to artists through a residency program; in exchange, artists offer their time and talent to engage the public. Recently, we expanded the residency to include a focus on EcoArt (the intersection between science, advocacy/ecological intervention, and art practices). The Artist in Residency program currently welcomes professional Visual, Performing, and Literary Artists who are self-motivated and focused. The primary basis for selection of our artists is the strength and quality of the applicant’s work as it relates the Charles Deerings' environmental and cultural vision as well as a clear objective for the time of their residency. Both Artist in Residence Studio Residencies and Non-Studio Project Residencies are available and are competitively selected through a jury process using leading professionals from our family of galleries, collaborative arts and cultural organizations. The Residency acts as wonderful incubator for creative ideas, unique experiences, and collaborative opportunities that engage the public in the natural and built features of the site.
11/6/2014 10:35 AM View respondent's answers
We do not have an arts program but are very interested in creating one. What we do have is an interpretive class for undergraduates that is dual listed in the fine arts department and the Wildlife ecology and conservation department. It is co-taught by faculty in both programs.
11/3/2014 8:06 AM View respondent's answers
Because we do have the public in fairly often, the artists that are on display have their works for sale. We get a commission off the sales of their art work. We rotate artists every three months. We also have larger public events through out the year where we bring in artists for shorter periods of time. We tend to bring in musicians during monthly brunch events.
11/3/2014 6:17 AM View respondent's answers
We also cooperate with other sites to promote arts/humanities engagements with sites of long-term inquiry, including managing (at a low level) the Ecological Reflections webpage to share information - About 20 sites are involved - mostly LTERs and some of these are also OBFS members and/or US Forest Service Experimental Forests. there seems to be a strong groundswell of these engagements and it would be good to share information and support one another.
11/2/2014 10:06 PM View respondent's answers
Sounds like there are a number of folks on staff game to assemble a blog post.
11/1/2014 5:36 PM View respondent's answers
would be great to have a network of field station art programs to learn what stations are doing and perhaps build into some interesting collective programs.
11/1/2014 8:48 AM View respondent's answers
We do collaborate with artists on occasion, but don't have a formal program. Some of our researchers are working on an art project to promote awareness and understanding of the ecology of the horseshoe crab which is a signature species of the Delaware Bay where we are located
10/31/2014 7:00 PM View respondent's answers
With the FAB! program, we bring art and biology undergraduate and graduate students together at the Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory on Seahorse Key for three days and have them engage in several integrative activities. The student activities are centered around important conservation issues such as climate change and global warming. The students then display the products of the activities at a public open house at the SKML. Our program is highly integrative and involves faculty from over three departments including Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Fine Arts, and Humanities.
10/31/2014 3:53 PM View respondent's answers
we also are creating a partnership with a couple of museums to set up research/course outing to the lab for students and development. this work is centered around Childe Hassam- a famous artist from the 1800's who painted on our island. we are working with a group of art historians to put together a nationally touring exhibit of Hassam's work. this work blends a lot of geology and art history to create interpretive materials for this public tour.
10/31/2014 1:27 PM View respondent's answers
The Art @ CPBS program is just a year old. We have long term plans and it is expected to grow over the next 5 years.
10/31/2014 10:53 AM View respondent's answers
Art is both an excellent outreach tool, and also a fascinating line of inquiry into ecosystems (just like science). I wish we had the funding and staff capacity to do more. There is certainly a tremendous amount of interest from regional artists in getting involved in what we do. I also help organize art-science work for the LTER Network. That collective (see is doing a lot of cool work.
10/31/2014 9:49 AM View respondent's answers
In addition to science-based conservation, education and research (especially in ecology. biology, geology, and hydrology) at the WKU GRP, we have a strong collaboration with the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology at WKU. There is a 200-year-old house at the site that is an important touchstone with the community, and which Folk Studies people are working hard to restore - a labor of many years and many years to come. Anthropological work is also a significant ongoing partnership; documentation of cultural history is important to us. We do not have a formal arts program, but we include performance of regional music (bluegrass and old-time) at many events, expect to host a musicians' retreat soon, have hosted retreats of women artists (including photographers), and will be hosting a retreat for an international group of religion academics focused on human relationships with the environment. We have done a small amount of temporary environmental art (sensu Andy Goldsworthy) and would like to do more, AND we make a point of providing students and visiting children with notebooks and pencils for drawing, and encourage the use of our dissecting scopes for simple informal close observation of natural objects. Those explorations are a hybrid of art and science: we believe that heightened attention to the landscape, the soundscape, and the microscape feeds observation skills and processes that are at the root of both science and art.
10/31/2014 9:33 AM View respondent's answers
Many of our English and ART faculty will bring their various classes out to the Station for a day-experience in exploring nature, painting landscapes or touring the facilities. There is a growing interest in developing STEAM and STREAM K-12 outreach programs to complement our existing STEM programs.
10/31/2014 8:47 AM View respondent's answers
It may be interesting to partner with the Alliance of Artists Communities (recently started a working group on "Ecological Residencies" at artist communities. Contact Molly Rideout (Director of Grin City Collective, a local artist-in-residency program)
10/31/2014 8:05 AM View respondent's answers
Welcome engagement with OBFS effort or joining a FSML group of other stations that have art programs. For example, would be fun to set up a network where artists can plug in and visit different stations each summer, or a central web resource where we can all display our "art at field station." We have great interest by artsists, but little structure for follow up or continued engagement. - Eric Nagy Mountain Lake Biological Station
10/30/2014 8:08 AM View respondent's answers
we are a new research station (one year of operation) and are still developing our programs. We are supporting faculty visits (including faculty in arts, humanities and social sciences) as they develop projects that could take place at the station. In addition to our scientific research projects, to date we have hosted art, scientific illustration and writing courses in addition to students from a range of other disciplines who are engaging in service learning activities.
10/29/2014 10:42 PM View respondent's answers
Some graduate students and some scientists at our institution want to participate in art/science projects with professional artists and believe the projects help public audiences understand scientific principles.
10/29/2014 12:28 PM View respondent's answers
Description of program already on the blog.
10/21/2014 3:52 PM View respondent's answers

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Catalog of FSMLs

This fusion table is a remarkable effort to catalog all the field stations and marine labs in the world as part of the NAS report. It's an excellent resource for finding potential partners and identifying opportunities.

If you see any missing stations, please mention them in the comments (or e-mail me) and I'll update the post.


Missing stations...

From Fred Swanson:

Data Carpentry

Data Carpentry is a new project funded by NSF BIO Centers and DataOne. It is designed to teach researchers basic concepts, skills and tools for working more effectively with data.

Workshops are designed for learners with little to no prior knowledge of programming, shell scripting, or command line tools.

iDigBio recently hosted a Data Carpentry workshop, and their website has good documentation.

It occurs to me that this workshop offers an interesting opportunity to train both scientists and artists, while providing the possibility of interaction.

Looking at the rapidly expanding pool of data as a resource, or a medium, offers interesting potential art/science collisions. For example, Artist-Scientists Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg lead Google's "Big Picture" visualization research group in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They created a compelling art project from wind data that you have probably seen, as well as many internet data visualizations , including Many Eyes, an on-line data visualization tool, Wikipedia, chat history and e-mail visualizations.

More thoughts about data visualization here.

New brochure for NAS Report

This is a new brochure from OBFS and NAML, highlighting the recent National Academy of Sciences report on "Enhancing the Value and Sustainability of Field Stations in the 21st Century".

Designed to present the salient points quickly and clearly to elected officials, campus administrators, grantors, and anyone else who has influence on field station and marine lab funding, this piece can also serve as an argument for art at FSMLs. In order to accomplish the recommendations of the report, FSMLs will need to engage a broader audience than in the past, linking the chain from data > knowledge > empathy > policy > action.

Art can help us do that.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Artist Stephanie Lie at Kendall-Frost

Stephanie Lie was awarded a UCIRA Artist Residency at UC San Diego's Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve in summer of 2014. Isabelle Kay provided these photos from the project.

Read more about the artwork here.

Monday, November 3, 2014


CERN, the multi-national super-collider that straddles the Swiss-French border near Geneva, is a pioneer of institutional art-science collaborations.

Beginning in 2009, they took a typically Swiss engineering approach to structuring their new effort, and funded a 4-month feasibility study.

The result is a program that is better organized and documented than most. To identify promising proposals, CERN has partnered with leading art-world luminaries, including Beatrix Ruf, director of Swiss art exhibition centre Kunsthalle Zurich, and Serge Dorny, director general of the Lyon Opera House in France.

Collide@CERN is driven by a four strategy cultural policy for engaging with the arts:
  1. To create expert knowledge in the setting up the honorary Cultural Advisory Board for engaging with the Arts (CABA) that will include arts professionals at the highest level.
  2. To create clear entry points for artists to visit CERN...The most obvious and clear entry point for artists will be the Collide@CERN Arts Residency Programme.
  3. To instigate Collide@CERN, the arts residency scheme, to encourage dialogue and exchange between arts and science...
  4. To provide...professional cultural expertise and advice to already existing homegrown arts activities at CERN – CinéGlobe, for example – to enable them to fulfill their cultural potential.
More information about CERN's art program:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Science and creativity

From Nancy Lowe:

"I'm attaching an inspiring article by Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein, who have been studying art-science creativity for a couple of decades (he is MacArthur Fellow from way back). The article points out that those scientists who do really innovative, paradigm-shifting work, the Nobel winners, etc., have one thing in common. They make art!" 
" mentioned that the group is searching for the purpose of art at field stations - here's an interesting new argument - that it augments creativity in general and can give scientists a fresh view of their own work. The second article I'm sending is a great summary of trends in science communication, including using the arts, put together by a bunch of movers and shakers from many arenas - online science communication, science festivals, Cafe Scientifique, art-science, and others."
Be sure to also check out Nancy's art-science blog, symbASA.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Mathematical Impressionist art.

Recent analysis shows that in paintings produced during psychotic episodes, Vincent Van Gogh was able to capture mathematically correct depictions of turbulence, one of the most difficult natural phenomena to describe scientifically.

This representation predates scientific recognition of the phenomenon. More here.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Survey and our formation announcement sent to membership.

We've sent out an announcement and survey to the members of OBFS and NAML to inform them of the Art @ FSMLs working group, and to learn how many of us have an art/humanities program at present. Thanks for your help drafting the message!

In case you somehow didn't get the memo, I've pasted the announcement below. Please forward to any other non-member stations you may know of, as well.


New Working Group on Art at FSMLs

At the September 2014 OBFS/NAML Joint Meeting in Wood’s Hole, Dr. Jerry Schubel presented on the new National Academy of Sciences publication. “Enhancing the Value and Sustainability of Field Stations and Marine Laboratories in the 21st Century”. In his talk, Dr. Schubel took the FSMLs to task for often failing to connect new data and knowledge through to policy and action, something that becomes more and more critical to our facilities’ survival as time goes by. 

Many of us feel that art can create the emotional connection to science that is needed to link this chain of progression, and can provide unexpected new ways of perceiving problems, issues, and potential solutions. During a lunch table conversation, an official working group on art at field stations and marine labs formed.

The purpose of the working group is to explore the intersection of art and science, provide examples, and share ideas and resources. Integrating art into field science programs is new ground for many stations, and we can all use some aid in figuring out the deep potential of this partnership, and how art can improve our operations, connect us to new stakeholder groups, and help us achieve our missions in a changing physical and political climate.

The working group now has a blog at The list of participants is posted. If you would like to be added to the group, or to post something to the blog, please contact the current Group Coordinator, Faerthen Felix. 

At present, we’d particularly like to build a reference library of case studies for art at FSMLs. The blog already has a few examples, including Philippe Cohen’s list of programs from the 2012 OBFS art at field stations poster session; the H.J. Andrews “Ecological Reflections” program; and program descriptions from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln’s Cedar Point Biological Station and UC Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station. Please consider helping us expand this resource by writing up a brief case study for your own field reserve or marine lab art program.

We’d also like to establish just how many FSMLs currently have an art or humanities program. We’ve created a very short SurveyMonkey questionnaire, and we’d ask you to please take a few minutes to answer the queries about your program. If you just can’t spare the time, a simple e-mail saying, “Yes, our FSML has an art program”, or, “No, we don’t” is better than no response.

Thanks in advance for your assistance! Please don't hesitate to get in touch with me for more information about the Art @ FSMLs working group.

--Faerthen Felix, UC Berkeley - Sagehen Creek Field Station, ffelix @

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Art and Science ideas

Here are some resources to help you think deeper about what art can bring to a FSML program:
  • Does everyone already know that the Huffington Post features an "Art Meets Science" news section that often finds really interesting intersections of the two disciplines?
  • The National Science Foundation has some cryptic entries into the art-science realm, but it's hard to tease them out. Here's one.
Have any favorites I missed? Post them in the comments, please.

Update, 10-30-14:

Gwen Pearson suggested these great links:

Updates from Philippe Cohen

From Philippe Cohen, Jasper Ridge Biological Reserve:
At the 2012 [OBFS] meetings I organized a presentation/poster session for biological field stations to show off what they are doing in terms of art and science. This pdf contains the descriptive materials I received from various field stations that participated in that effort.

...Finally, at Jasper Ridge, we are always open to possibilities and although there is no regular program currently in place, if there are people who are interested we are glad to explore ideas and funding on an ad hoc basis. We are hoping to have our second visiting artist within the year since the first one was so successful.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NEH Lecture on The Intersection of the Humanities and the Sciences.

"Watch the live stream of the 43rd Jefferson Lecture featuring Walter Isaacson.

Isaacson, acclaimed author, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization, and biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, spoke on The Intersection of the Humanities and the Sciences on May 12th at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts."

Isaacson on Einstein:

"Einstein's leap [that time is relative and light speed is constant] was a triumph not of pure science, or deduction, or induction. It was a triumph of imagination. It came from questioning the accepted wisdom and challenging authority...

So when we emphasize the need to teach our kids science and math, we should not neglect to encourage them also to be imaginative, to be creative, to have an intuitive feel for beauty and to question received wisdom...

And that's the role of the humanities."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Science-themed art exhibits at NSF and AAAS

Download brochure.
"The National Science Foundation's Art of Science (AoS) Project was conceived and implemented in 1989 by a cross-directorate committee of NSF staff. Its purpose is to bring to NSF original works of art that visually explore the connections between artistic and scientific expression.  
Art of Science exhibits are displayed in designated public space and are scheduled to rotate quarterly. The AoS committee endeavors to showcase work across the scientific and engineering disciplines from different artists/scientists using a variety of mediums.
For additional information on the Art of Science Project please contact a current member of the AoS committee via email at"
From February 29 - June 30, 2013, the Long-Term Ecological Reflections program staged an art exhibit at the National Science Foundation.

More information:

Thanks to Fred Swanson for the exhibit documentation.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  *
"With nearly 400 members and no space to call home, the Washington Sculptors Group has nevertheless regularly managed to find wide exposure for its artists, many of whom are among the region’s finest and deserve to be seen. The group’s recent venues have ranged from such ad hoc spaces as office lobbies and parks to more traditional galleries including Artisphere, the Mansion at Strathmore and the BlackRock Center for the Arts.

The group’s latest exhibition, “Gedankenexperiment,” is a good fit for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which for several years now has devoted a chunk of its lobby — along with a small dedicated gallery space — to science-themed art of both the 2-D and 3-D variety."
"Thought experiments consider the effects of a hypothesis or theory that cannot easily be tested in the physical world...

Inspired by scientific and mathematical theories, hypotheses, and principles from Archimedes, the I Ching, geology, geometry, architecture, and more, the artists featured in GEDANKENEXPERIMENT have conducted their own thought experiments, resulting in the sculptural expressions—incorporating wood, metals, paper, computer parts, and limestone—featured in this show."

More information:
Thanks to George Nolte for the link.

Questions from Fred Swanson

From Fred Swanson, H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest:
I was asked to write an essay to be one of six in a set to appear in Ecosphere (ESA on-line journal) for next year's ESA centennial. Title something like: "Ecology, the Arts, and Humanities: Confluences at Sites of Long-Term, Place-Based Inquiry" (too long, but gives the scope). It's not a book. I'm not an expert, but have been involved with colleagues in pushing the cause in some circles for quite a few years and tracked some of the OBFS action via our Andrews OBFS representative Mark Schulze. I've been working mainly in the LTER and USFS Exp. Forests and Ranges networks because of tighter personal fit in them.

Recent interactions with Art and Mike Lannoo got me wondering about status of the FSMLs - about how many (what fraction of the 270 OBFS sites in round numbers - same for the 120 NAMLs - are these numbers right?) have some arts/humanities action? is there a rough sense of the class vs. residency split (if there is such a thing)? I get the picture that practical motivations of class and student numbers are prime, but just the pleasure and inspiration of it is important too. ??

The paper prep has me viewing the situation as one of lots of highly dispersed action at the ecology-arts-humanities confluence happening at many dozens of sites of long-term inquiry, but it is quite cryptic - not easily located on many site/program webpages, I know of only one webpage that tries to show profiles of many sites ( - it's simple, poorly kept-up, incomplete), and there is no overarching system of communication - there's some emerging, grassroots communication in LTER (workshops at the 3-yr All Scientists Meetings) and FSML (the blog you just turned me onto - thank you). Do you see it that way too?...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

UCIRA Artists-in-Residency program.

Diagram of paper folding sequence. Pablo Colapinto of
UC Santa Barbara visited the NRS’s Yosemite Field
Station to explore biological folding strategies.
Image credit: Pablo Colapinto
In association with the University of California Natural Reserve System (UCNRS), the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA) sponsored six student artists-in-residence at California field stations this summer.

Here's an article from the UCNRS describing the awards. I'll try to get more detailed project descriptions to post later.



Detailed project descriptions and artist websites/contacts...

Art @ Cedar Point Biological Station, case study #2

Cedar Point Biological Station is a part of the University of Nebraska Lincoln's School of Biological Sciences.  We are located on the western high plains about 3 hours drive east of Denver.

The station, originally as Cedar Point Ranch, hosted Girlscout events from about 1949 to 1971.  The owners of Cedar Point Ranch, the Gainesforth family, had a multi-generational interest in the outdoor experience and funded, with support from Mrs. Robert Goodall, a designed camp in 1960: a two story lodge, an infirmary, a directors cabin, 10 cabins for scouts and two central wash houses.

For various reasons, by 1971 the Girlscouts were no longer using the Goodall Cedar Point Camp and early in 1975, UNL initially leased the site for advanced field based biology courses and site based research.  CPBS has been very faithful to its original mission and for the past 39 years we have offered 6 to 10 courses in advanced biology as well as hosted up to a dozen researchers each summer.

This is a simple narrative about the Art @ CPBS program which in my view has been wildly successful. My primary job being day to day management of the station as the associate director.

After several examples of field stations supporting art and art education that were presented at the OBFS annual meetings, I asked one of our regular users why CPBS hasn't partnered or hosted something art based each summer.  This user, the partner of one of our just retired faculty, had spent at least part of every previous 37 summers at the station and nearly as long as the education director at the UNL Sheldon Museum of Art .

Rather than explain or excuse the past she put me in touch with one faculty member in the department of Art and Art History.  The art faculty were immediately interested and in fact only agreed to partner if we would agree to at least a 5 year effort. How does one turn that sort of response down?

This past summer 2014 we offered PHOT 161, a introduction to digital photography for non-art majors, as 3 UNL credits in two weeks at the station.  The course enrolled 13 students.  The art faculty also wanted to do some sort of resident artist program.  We had several applicants and offered a one or two week resident experience to 5 of them.

I am very much looking forward to summer 2015, as the art faculty have all said this first summer was just a place holder and their real effort will start in 2015.

Lesson here; if you want something just ask people around you.  Their answer may just be a quick and easy path to what you need.

more to come...

Jon Garbisch associate director, CPBS

For more information:
Our website:
shared webpage with the department of Art and Art History

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Art + Environment Conference, Oct. 9-11, 2014

We've just returned from the triennial Art + Environment Conference at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. The conference occurred around a new, taxidermy-themed exhibit entitled "Late Harvest", that was thought-provoking and ground-breaking. If you are in the area, you might try to see it.

The conference is an absolutely remarkable event focused on "art that walks in the world", that is to say, art that has a real contribution to and influence on the culture and environment. Jeff and I presented very briefly about Sagehen during one of the lunch sessions on the Harrison project, and I believe we have started conversations that will lead to new art/science projects on the ground at Sagehen.

This is the premiere event of its kind in the world, and I can't recommend the conference highly enough to anyone with an interest in the intersection of art and science. Attendees came from all over the world and included educators and science practitioners, as well as museum reps, artists, writers and poets. Everyone seems to value collaboration and discussion with scientists, though many folks I spoke to don't seem to know where to start.

"Fighting Lions" by A. Worthington, c. 1880.
There were some very interesting presentations on more theoretical aspects of the linkage between art and science, including one from Adam Duncan Harris, the Peterson Curator of Art and Research at The National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, which lent a number of historic wildlife paintings to the Late Harvest exhibit.

Harris discussed how Darwin was influenced by the Romantic tradition of wildlife painting to emphasize a vision of inter-species competition that was far bloodier, over-the-top and dramatic than more recent scholarship has revealed to be the case.

Of course, Darwin's own work then fed back into the art world and made it mandatory to create natural history illustrations from life observations within the natural environment, rather than from the out-of-context and often falsely depicted taxidermy models previously employed.

The NMA video-recorded the conference and will eventually make the material available on line, though the timeline is somewhat hazy. I'll update this post when the videos become available.


Update: 10-18-14

The Nevada Museum of Art has generously shared the PDF of the Late Harvest exhibit catalog with us. This catalog includes the essay by Adam Duncan Harris mentioned above, as well as additional relevant material.

Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

Update: 12-27-14

Orion Magazine has published a series of conference recap posts. There is an interesting and thought-provoking comment made by artist David Brooks about how biologists are the true avant-garde thinkers of our time.

Art & Science Through The Natural History Print

Santa Barbara Natural History Museum has a spectacular art collection of natural history illustrations dating from the 17th to 19th century. From the Maximus Gallery website, these antique engravings and lithographs:
"...give us a glimpse into history, help us to understand how the sciences developed, and show how people communicated in an earlier age. Originally used for scientific identification, as printing methods improved and more artists were involved, they became sought after for their intrinsic beauty; a blend of art and science...

These beautiful and historic works are lasting testimony to the contribution that art has made to our understanding of the natural world during the last four centuries."
While attending a recent iDigBio workshop, we were able to tour the collection and speak with the curator, Linda Miller about her program. The gallery often pairs selections from its holdings with specimens from the Natural History collections in order to increase the impact of both.

I followed up with Linda later about the relationship between art and science, and hope to hear back from her soon.  I'll update this post if she has anything to add.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Art at FSMLs: Case Study #1

UC Berkeley's Sagehen Creek Field Station has had a turbulent past.

Founded by a son of Aldo Leopold in 1951, the facility gradually fell into disrepair and neglect after the charismatic and politically-powerful founder passed away.

In the first California budget crisis of the mid-1990's, the only thing that kept the station from going away was a codicil in the Forest Service permit that required the University to return the site to natural condition should they ever abandon. Well, if you don't have the money to operate, you certainly don't have the money for a big restoration project, so Sagehen sat quietly in caretaker status for a few years.

A grassroots lobbying effort by the Truckee community stimulated the University to rethink their approach. Another California budget meltdown and a change in Vice Chancellor for Research resulted in a new, more entrepreneurial operating model for Sagehen: the university hired business-oriented managers, but ended up covering their salaries and little else. There was no choice but to collaborate and build partnerships in unexpected quarters. We gathered a broad community-based advisory group, generated a Vision Statement, and got used to saying yes. Sagehen stopped retracting and started growing.

Sometimes saying yes would result in strange, but interesting and productive bedfellows. One of the early courses that showed up was UC Davis' innovative Nature and Culture, combining humanities and science students and curriculum. The class was quirky and odd. It got us thinking more about the possibility of partnering art and field science, in a deep, connected way that “separate-but-equal” art (or writing) courses just don't.

It touched on the strange resistance some artists expressed to us about being thought of as mere “scientific illustrators”. If field station art wasn’t that, then what was it?

Then something interesting happened...

[Download full article]

* * *

Links to more information:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2014 National Academy of Sciences report on FSMLs

Updated 6-25-15:

Dr. Jerry Schubel, President and CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA presented to us at the Wood's Hole OBFS/NAML Joint Meeting on the recent National Academy of Sciences report on "Enhancing the Value and Sustainability of Field Stations and Marine Labs in the 21st Century" (there is also a short Report In Brief available for the publication, and an OBFS-produced synopsis trifold).

The report process produced a useful catalog of worldwide field stations.

Here's a PowerPoint link. Jerry also used the video below in his presentation:

I followed up with Dr. Schubel about the model he described in that presentation, a chain of progression from data > knowledge > wisdom > policy > action. At the meeting, he scolded the FSML community for failing to reach the latter links in the chain. It's not enough to discover and "know" things. We have to connect this knowledge through to our larger culture. As research facilities, our survival depends on it.

But how do we do that, if it's not a scientific process? Maybe art can help? Dr. Schubel thinks so, too. Though it was missed in the report, he did a follow-up Viewpoint article in BioScience that states that FSMLs are ideally suited for facilitating interdisciplinary "creative abrasion". He specifically identifies the critical need to include arts and humanities.

He recommended that I check out a program from the aquarium: "The Role of Design and Design Thinking in Sustainability and Ocean Conservation". There is a Livestream video of the conference, and a Coastal Conversation video on the same topic.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Ecological Reflections network

Hello OBFS and NAML members,

At this and previous meetings I've mentioned the growing Ecological Reflections network. The mission of Ecological Reflections is to bring the environmental sciences, arts, and humanities together in long-term attention to places and their cultural and moral meanings, as these change over time and generations.  If this resonates with you, check out the website:


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ocean Science Animation Student Videos

Hey everyone!

So great to meet you all at the FSML meeting.  Faerthen, thanks so much for starting this.  I mentioned a collaboration that I had with the USC Animation department when I was the director of the COSEE program at USC.  Here's a link to those student videos.


Monday, September 22, 2014


From left: Reed Bertone-Johnson, Felicia Coleman.
At the September, 2014 OBFS/NAML Joint Meeting, a lunch table discussion started on the topic of Art at Field Stations and Marine Labs. We continued the next day. Thanks for your interest in starting a working group on the subject!

Here is the list of participants (with more recent additions by request). Send me what you'd like posted, or I can set you up as an editor. I'd like to see everyone first create a post about the state of/thoughts about your current art program--basically, the short introductions we did at lunch, along with any photos or links you'd like to share. That will provide a good point of departure for further discussion, and a record for future reference.

It would be great if you would use the blog to communicate within the group, rather than e-mailing around, but you can pull individual e-mail addresses from the conference roster for private exchanges.
From left: Judy Lemus, Jane Rosett, Jon Garbisch, Bill

If you'd prefer, I'll post the actual e-mail addresses here, just let me know. Gwen Pearson will post a link to this blog on the Organization of Biological Field Stations website. I'll ask the National Association of Marine Laboratories to do the same. If you know anyone else who might be interested in this discussion, please invite them.

Group participants (* indicates looking for, or playing a more active role):
Faerthen Felix* UC Berkeley-Sagehen Creek Field Station (Group Coordinator)
Martha Apple* Department of Biological Sciences, Montana Tech of the University of Montana
Rebecca Atkins* University of Georgia
Reed Bertone-Johnson Smith College MacLeish Field Station
Jeff Brown* UC Berkeley-Sagehen Creek Field Station
Christina Catanese* Schuylkill Center
Philippe Cohen Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve - Stanford University (retired)
Felicia Coleman Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab
Mel Dean Hawaii Experimental Tropical Forest
Bill Dennison University of Maryland
Kevin Duggan* Consultant
Paul Foster Costa Rica Bijagual Ecological Reserve
William Fox Director, Center for Art + Enviroment, NMA
Jon Garbisch Cedar Point Biological Station
Newton Harrison Center for the Study of the Force Majeure
Susan Jacobson* University of Florida
Isabelle Kay UC San Diego Reserves
Julia Klein Colorado State University
Ariane Koek International Policy Advisor and Consultant
Craig Lukatch Lacawac Sanctuary & Field Station
Nancy Lowe
Judy Lemus Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology
Mary Beth Leigh University of Alaska-Fairbanks
Claudia Luke Sonoma State University Field Stations and Nature Preserves
Art McKee Yellowstone Ecological Research Center
Michael Nelson H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest
Erika Osborne Colorado State University
Sarah Oktay University of Massachusetts-Boston Nantucket Field Station
Kristin Pasquino* Northern Forest Institute - State University of New York
Marianne Patinelli-Dubay* Northern Forest Institute - State University of New York
Gwen Pearson
Mel Preston Point Blue Conservation Science
Jane Rosett Marine Biological Laboratory, Wood's Hole
Lindsey Rustad Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest
Leslie Ryan H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest
Jerry Schubel Aquarium of the Pacific
Mark Schulze H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest
Fred Swanson* H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest
Sam Wisely* University of Florida Ordway Swisher Biological Station
Kathleen Wong UC Natural Reserve System

From left: Reed Bertone-Johnson, Mark Schulze, Isabelle
Kay, Jeff Brown, Judy Lemus.