Elizabeth DePace ’16, Mackellar Violich (a research assistant with CEI) and Julia Lerner ’14 examine isopods.
Story by Jasmine Henderson ’15
Surrounded by crystal blue water and warm beaches, Scott Rawlins, professor of art and design, and scientific illustration majors Elizabeth DePace ’16 and Julia Lerner ’14 joined researchers at the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) in the Bahamas last December to create illustrations of newly discovered marine isopod species. (Isopods are crustaceans that live on land or in fresh or salt water. The “pill bug,” or wood louse, is a type of isopod that lives on land.)
The trip to a subtropical location did more than provide a respite from cold temperatures in the U.S. It was part of a project that allowed six Arcadia students to collaborate with a faculty member, gain real world experience interacting with research scientists, and have their work published.
CEI scientists have been working to assess the diversity, distribution, and abundance of deepwater fauna using a specialized video camera called the “Medusa.” It was through video footage provided by the Medusa that the new species of isopods were first discovered. The illustrations created by Rawlins and the students will accompany the researchers’ taxonomical descriptions of the isopods in articles for two scholarly journals.
Before Rawlins, DePace, and Lerner traveled to Eleuthera, an island located east of Nassau, the group studied crustaceans and isopods and produced preliminary artwork with the other students working on the project. Spending a few days in the Bahamas meant they could examine fresh specimens and consult with scientists face-to-face before completing the illustrations.
Since scientific illustrations are most often created in a laboratory setting using preserved subjects, “actually visiting the environment where new species are found and being able to examine them fresh from their natural habitats is something not many scientific illustrators are able to do,” says Rawlins.