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Illustrating an eon – or a frog

April 29, 2011

Category: A Closer Look

Carnivorous plants by Chelsea Crist, from CSUMB "Illustrating Nature" exhibit poster.

Natural-history exhibits showcase CSU’s museum-quality talents

Expect to spot naturalists sketching on napkins – and fine art on the walls – at the opening reception for “Illustrating Nature” Friday, May 6.

The annual exhibit of work by students in the CSU Monterey Bay Science Illustration Program, it will be on display at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History through June 4. (The public is invited to an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at the museum, 165 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove.)

One of several current connections between CSU campuses and science museums, “Illustrating Nature” will display 63 artworks and sketchbooks depicting Costa Rican poison dart frogs, a gravel ghost wildflower, Neanderthal jewelry production and other phenomena and organisms. Poison dart frog by Sean EdgertonThe detailed pieces are derived from pen and ink, scratchboard, colored pencil, watercolor, gouache, acrylic and digital media. Each piece is paired with a specimen from the museum’s collection.

You can find more about the “Illustrating Nature” exhibit and see some of its art here.

An instructor in the CSU Monterey Bay program, Jenny Keller, contributed a chapter and the cover illustration to “Field Notes on Science and Nature,” about to be published by Harvard University Press.

Titled “Why Sketch?,” her chapter encourages scientists and amateur naturalists to give it a try because “careful observation makes you a better scientist, and drawing is a great way to observe,” Keller said.

A member of the program’s first graduating class (2010), Jane Kim, recently won the viewer’s choice award for National Geographic’s New Ocean Ideas.

Now showing around the CSU

A showcase sampling of other CSU museum projects:

Today, Chico Junior High School students will host a Climate Summit at Chico State’s Gateway Science Museum. Involving more than 50 seventh-grade biology students who have been studying climate change for several weeks, the summit’s goal is to explore climate change throughout Earth’s history, including the impact of humans on it.

Microbes exhibit at Chico StateThe museum will also host Chico State’s College of Natural Sciences Poster Session on Friday, May 6, amid “Microbes: Invisible Invaders…Amazing Allies,” an exhibit that runs through May 30.

Humboldt State University’s Natural History Museum will hold Chemistry and Physics Day Saturday, April 30. It will offer hands-on activities, experiments and demonstrations for the community – exploring density, Newton’s Law, the water cycle, electricity and more. HSU student-teacher candidates for elementary grades will serve as mentors.

Help Solve the Mussel Mystery”—an interactive display that features research by Cal State L.A. biology Professor Carlos Robles on keystone predators along Santa Catalina Island’s coastline – is part of the year-old Ecosystems exhibition at the California Science Museum. The display—located within the “Extreme Zone” of Ecosystems—is based on research that analyzes inter-species relations and how the predator-prey relationship can shape an ecosystem. In particular, Robles studied the spiny lobster as a predator.

Mural at Fresno State

At Fresno State, it’s not a museum by any stretch, but it’s a stretch of museum-quality natural-history art: a mural by scientific illustrator Laura Cunningham that provides a timeline of the history of the universe. It decorates a stairwell in the Science II building and a 30-foot-tall outdoor mural.

Another Cunningham mural on campus, a panorama on the exterior of Science II, depicts the western San Joaquin Valley in the Cretaceous period of geologic history, 70 million years ago, during the age of the dinosaurs.

Perhaps a stretch for “natural” history, the exhibit “Lamps & Stamps, Toys & Tins: The Things We Collect & Why We Collect Them” is at Cal State East Bay’s C.E. Smith Museum of Anthropology through June 3 (along with “Trails to Rails: Building the Transcontinental Railroad”). The collections include chopstick rests, snuff bottles, rosaries, butterflies, stamps, PEZ containers, lighters, handkerchiefs, pins, tinplate trains, railroadiana and Disneyana. “Collecting has become a part of our popular culture and has sparked shows like `History Detectives’ and `American Pickers,’” said Marjorie Rhodes-Ousley, the museum’s associate director.

To celebrate Mother’s Day, CSU San Bernardino’s Robert V. Fullerton Art Museum offers “An Evening with a Mummy May 6. Later it will present its annual “The Summer Egyptian Art Workshop for Kids” – offering archaeological “digs,” jewelry making and clay sculpting for fifth- and sixth-grade children.

–Sean Kearns

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