Should we be feeding wild birds? How a desire to sketch birds led to a romp through the bird-feeding literature

Cross-posted on www.drawntothewest.com

Group of finches_v1You can tell it’s spring; the Internet is aflutter with bird articles.

A lot of those articles relate closely to the two-part series I just wrapped up about attracting wild birds using methods informed by ornithology research.

I was inspired to investigate the subject because we have a “new-to-us” backyard that is bare dirt. A few trees and shrubs sit at the corners of the lot, but that’s it. We’ve begun by seeding in some native grasses and installing a vegetable garden, and now are considering what we could do to attract birds.

What I learned drawing: Fish & Desert Plants

Chiricahua National Monument (6)_wm

“Close observation is the first step in any scientific inquiry, and to my mind, there is no better way to observe than to try to draw what you are looking at.” – Barrett Klein

Barrett Klein, a trained artist and entomologist, is a preparator and display maker in the Exhibition Department at the American Museum of Natural History, and what he said couldn’t be more true for a couple of my recent commissions.

In December, I spent a luxurious handful of days in Arizona’s Sonoran desert, sketching and photographing the landscape, creatures, and plant communities. As I mentioned in my January newsletter, I was working on reference images for a set of commissioned pen-and-ink sketches slated to run in a book about desert bighorn sheep.

Perhaps one of the most revealing observations I made, though, had nothing to do with bighorn sheep.

Continue reading “What I learned drawing: Fish & Desert Plants”

Dear Digit: How can I send professional-looking emails without breaking the bank?

Dear Digit sketch_5Click here to submit your questions and tips!

“Dear Digit, I keep receiving professional-looking email newsletters, updates, and offers, and would love to send emails that look that great. But, I’m not a designer or a computer programmer, and I don’t have the budget to hire one. Is there anything I can do?” 

Most likely, the emails you receive that look fabulously designed are created on Email Service Provider (ESP) platforms such as Constant Contact and MailChimp. Systems like these offer a host of benefits while still being budget-friendly.

For those of us working in the arts world, one of the primary attractions is the suite of professionally designed templates which you can customize and adapt to suit. You can also set up different mailing lists, or divide mailing lists into subcategories based on the specific topics in which people are interested. Continue reading “Dear Digit: How can I send professional-looking emails without breaking the bank?”

Illustrating Ecology…conferences, that is

*Images are from the ‘drawing for scientists’ section I led in a scicomm workshop at ESA’s 2014 annual meeting.

Researchers have demonstrated that drawing (even without training) can help clarify what you know, assist instructors in assessing student knowledge, and enhance public communication efforts. And, there is evidence that collaboration between scientists and artists may result in better science.

Continue reading “Illustrating Ecology…conferences, that is”

Scicomm advice: 7 life lessons that will help make your science matter

Orange & metallic blue butterfly_20130619 (5)_cr_c_wm_rsTerry Wheeler studies bugs.

Insects, that is, and he writes haiku about them.  He also works at McGill, and runs a blog called Lyman Entomological Museum, which is a delightful collection of musings about life as an entomologist.  He recently posted a piece called “to a young naturalist” which proposes a required reading list for a budding researcher/naturalist much broader than text books and field guides.

He writes that a snapshot of his field camp library “was a nice little microcosm of General Life Advice to the Young Academic Naturalist.”

Wheeler’s insights, derived from fundamentals such as A Naturalist’s Field Guide to the Artic and the much less obvious Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbirdencompass many of the lessons I try to share with clients and colleagues working in science and sustainability.

IMG_0084_c_cr_wm_rsThey are life lessons that apply to anyone seeking a richly productive and meaningful life working in the sciences, natural history, and environmental fields. Continue reading “Scicomm advice: 7 life lessons that will help make your science matter”