Introducing “Ecology Stories”

Debby Kaspari and I are pleased to announce the first “episode” of our ongoing series of illustrated essays on Ecology. Our goal is to introduce fascinating topics in a style accessible to audiences from middle-school through undergraduate science classrooms, and just about any reader that may be wondering about what is going on with our planet Earth. The first episode can be downloaded as a 12-page PDF here and is freely available on a Creative Commons license that asks you to attribute the work to Debby and myself, not create mash-ups, nor make people pay for it.

The work is a labor of love between an artistically inclined scientist and a scientifically inclined artist. It is inspired by great graphic novel collaborations that know how to tell a story with pictures and words. It is firmly grounded in our appreciation of the #SciArt and #SciComm community. It was made possible in part through funding from NSF (DEB-1702426), and was made so much better through consultations with science teacher extraordinaire Lauren Niemann, and scholar-poet-science student, Tom Kaspari.

We are especially excited about highlighting the work of ecologists from around the world. Our first guest scientist is Dr. Andrea Lucky from the University of Florida, who describes her work as an ant taxonomist. Other scientists that show up in the first episode are Dr. EO Wilson, Dr. Winnie Hallwachs, and Dr. Dan Janzen.

One of the most fun parts of the collaboration is seeing Debby’s magnificent work—from pencil sketches, inked cartoons, pastels, watercolors, to computer generated art—used to illuminate concepts in ecology. You can find a lot more of Debby’s work on her website Drawing the MotMot.

For example, one challenge in talking about biodiversity is its nomenclature. Debby’s poison dart illustration captures one of our favorite taxa from the Neotropics—poison dart frogs—toward capturing the essence of genera and species.

Even Gizmo the cat gets her opportunity to shine. As this is the first in a planned series, we’d love to find out how “Episode One: What is Biodiversity” plays in your classroom or with your Sci-curious niece. Get back to us here with comments, suggestions for improvement, or potential story ideas. What are ideas, challenges in ecology that everybody needs to know more about? How can we help you communicate ecology in a colorful, accessible, and hopefully, just a bit entertaining way?

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