Where Art Meets Science: Investigating Social, conservation and Ecological Relationships

Title

Where Art Meets Science: Investigating Social, conservation and Ecological Relationships

Files

Research Question

I will conduct research and interviews in/about three places where tortoises and hares actually co-exist (Arizona, France, Kenya), in order to develop "An Ecological Storybook: Writing/Illustrating the Ecologically True Story of the Tortoise and the Hare." This work is supervised by Dr. Jeffrey Lockwood (Entomologist, UW MFA director) in consultation with Dr. Jake Goheen (UW Dept. of Zoology & Physiology). More information is available online at: http://commnatural.com/truestorytortoiseandhare/.

Award

CGS-SER Nielson International Internship/Fieldwork Grant

Significance

I want to tell this story, in large part, because of several recent studies. First, researchers have found books featuring talking animals skew readers' understandings of basic biological principles and lead to children explaining wild animal behavior in terms of human motives and emotions. Second, the Pew Institute reports people don't understand how ecosystems work, but they want to. I intend to address these issues by capitalizing on Aesop's well-known fable. I will conduct background research necessary to rewrite the story, which can then serve as a portal for engaging readers with the ecological facts of global tortoise and hare biodiversity and conservation issues – of which there are many. Through my graduate work, I intend to demonstrate first-hand the value of fully integrating the arts into the researching and telling of ecology/ecological research stories. I aim to create a seamless blend of illustration and writing which honors and builds upon the legacies of artist-scientists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, John James Audubon, Maria Sybilla Merian, and Lewis and Clark. I am also informed by a host of modern research documenting the efficacy of writing and drawing for learning and communicating about science and nature. I am passionate about efforts to incorporate the arts into science research, education, and communication – an MFA in nonfiction can serve as a powerful example of the synergy possible between these fields. The writing that results from my graduate degree will provide me a potent opportunity to validate the multidisciplinary relevance of my approach – storytelling and drawing coupled with science. An extant body of research and a field of practice point to the importance of science communication, but most of this work is contingent upon the assumption that an audience is already interested in science/ecology topics. My writing projects for my master's degree assume only that everyone loves a familiar story. Therein lays a striking opportunity to engage with audiences that might otherwise not consider pressing science/ecology topics like biodiversity and science literacy. Indeed, publishing projects and presentations on this material have the potential to deeply engage broad audiences in complex ecological themes.

Methods Used

Archival and literary research.

Resulting Publications/Presentations

To be determined.

Publication Date

2016

Department

Creative Writing

Where Art Meets Science: Investigating Social, conservation and Ecological Relationships

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