For the past two years, I have been photographing two meadows at Tyler State Park, in Newtown PA, as part of a long-term project run by Bucks County Community College (BCCC). These select meadows are in the process of becoming ideal pollinator habitat! Native plant and wildflower seeds were sown, invasive species were removed, and the habitat was “cleaned up” by the college’s students in order to make room for the vast amounts of pollinators these meadows have the potential to accommodate!
As the photographer for this project, I got to see the meadows at different seasonal stages and experience their changes up close. By having a photographer participate in this project, you are able to visualize the changes each meadow underwent over the 2 year time span and put a “face to the data”. Of course, there is more work to be done and creating ideal habitat doesn’t happen over the course of 2 years – it happens over the course of decades, but starting the restoration process has to happen at some point!
These photos were then used in the BCCC’s ArtMobile that traveled from school to school. Students of all ages were able to go inside and view the meadows without needing to leave their school on a logistically difficult to plan field trip (many schools don’t have consistent access to busing and this can make field trips too pricey for kids to go on)! Curriculum was created and focused on the research BCCC’s Ecology and Biology students did and the data that my photographs showed.
Overall, after 2 years of returning to the same two meadows and photographing their every flower and pollinator that came to visit while I was present, I can say that art definitely has a place in the scientific field. Roughly 65% of students are visual learners, and numbers, names, and data will be meaningless without visuals to aid in comprehension. Art also helps students understand how diverse and interdisciplinary career paths can be! Many younger students think of science as a difficult, laboratory and research-intensive field and are scared off by that. By incorporating art into this seemingly “complex” field, you are showing more students that they can still be an involved and integral member of the scientific community while creating, expressing, and living through an artistic medium. Many students don’t realize that in the 1500-1800s, many scientists WERE artists who discovered animal behaviors, plant life cycles, and human anatomy by observing their subjects and sketching or painting them (think Darwin, Maria Merian, or DaVinci). David Sibley, renowned ornithologist who illustrates his own field guides, has said that if you can draw the bird, then you will have a greater scientific understanding of it. Personally, I find that both science and art are ways of observing the world around you and putting data into people’s hands; it’s just that the final form of the data may look different! By combining these seemingly “opposite” fields of study, you can illustrate to students how creative they can be with their chosen career path and that it’s okay to blend different passions with each other!
This is the purpose of The Art of Ecology. I want to help people build those visual connections to nature and understand that art and science are wonderfully related! This selection of photos from my 2 years at Tyler State Park hopefully will provide you with a sense of peace or fascination, brought to you by the visual aesthetics of the art, and will also educate you about the connection that pollinators and plants have with each other!
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