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Art & Science

Artistic expression of science is important for connection to the work, to ourselves, and to society as a whole. Research is a creative endeavor, so it makes sense that ideas and findings should be expressed in a creative way. The hallway of the 3rd floor of the O'Neill building on the UAF campus is being transformed into a space where science-based art and research posters from meetings are co-located. Below are some examples of our creative expression.

autumn leaf


These are images of plant stomata - the small pores on leaves that allow gas exchange (CO2, H2O) so the plant can photosynthesize, respire, and transpire.

Sam Dempster applied clear nail polish to the leaf surface of different species (fireweed and alder shown here), peeled it off, and stained it with different colors. Sam took these photos using a camera mounted on a microscope. Something that started as a means to determine the density of stomata on the leaves turned into a lovely art project.

Four of these images have been printed on aluminum and will hang in the 3rd floor hallway of the O'Neill building on the UAF campus.

Xylem or wood anatomy

These are images of xylem cells that compose tree rings. Xylem are the water conducting cells in a plant that is the wood we use for construction, burning, etc.

Nathaniel Bolter cored trees and took cross sections of shrubs and black spruce. He brought the samples to Dr. Greg Goldsmith's lab at Chapman University, and learned the procedures for preparing and processing samples for xylem analysis (including the size and wall thickness of the xylem cells over the course of a growing season or growth ring). Nathaniel took these images, which show the diversity of cell shapes and sizes across different species. We will print them on aluminum and hang in our hallway art exhibition.

Our Beloved Suburban

Suburban drawing - by Jessie Robertson

I (Jessie Young-Robertson) developed this design that is printed on aluminum and hangs above the lab door. This design is also printed on t-shirts for the lab. It represents the boreal landscape, including permafrost and non-permafrost soils, and important features of the lab, including our beloved Suburban that has been part of so many years of field work. The bonus of living in the place we work is that we can do year-round research, and we see forest processes and changes that folks who don't live here can't directly observe.

Alaska Landscapes & Critters

I (Jessie) painted or drew these pieces. They range from landscapes, to tree water movement and the critters we find in Alaska (like dragonflies, moose, etc). I use acrylic paint and pencils on stone paper, canvas, or heavy weight paper. Creating art is a big part of who I am, which is why I encourage the lab members to be creative as well. 

First Friday event

Sam at First Friday
Nathaniel at First Friday
Jessie at First Friday

Sam, Nathaniel, and Jessie contributed artwork to the International Arctic Research Center's 1st Friday event on December 1st, 2023.

Read about it here.

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