Using art to examine topics from Environmental Studies is a powerful way to connect with people at the emotional and belief-system levels to challenge preconceptions and motivate action.
These interdisciplinary collaborations can provide strategies towards developing innovative approaches to live sustainably and safe guard biodiversity. Seeking Symbiosis is a collaboration between Juniper Harrower, a PhD student in the Environmental Studies Department, and Dr. Geoffrey Thomas, a Research Associate in the Art Department and OpenLab, to educate students on the impacts of human driven global change on ecosystem processes and biodiversity. Juniper’s work examines the impacts of climate change on Joshua trees and their symbiotic fungi. With studies suggesting that Joshua trees could be mostly extinct from Joshua Tree National Park within 60-90 years, she hopes to inspire students to think critically about our responsibility to address global biodiversity loss. Using imagery from Juniper’s research, and working with Joshua trees at the UCSC greenhouse, students created triptychs about Joshua tree loss to engage with the scientific and cultural discourses surrounding climate change and environmentalism.
Dr. Thomas’s class will be offered again in Spring 2015: Special Topics in Drawing – Digital Storytelling, Art 119-2. Additionally, students interested in future art/science collaborations can get involved with a soon to be announced art/science competition on campus organized through WISE (Women in Science and Engineering).