The Case for Creatives: Why Conservation Needs Artists
front cover: lions and whales oh my
Using visual storytelling is crucial for communicating scientific knowledge and inspiring passion for nature. With the planet becoming increasingly threatened by climate change and mass extinction, it is essential to take steps to protect it.This thesis explores how illustration and design can benefit conservation causes by evaluating approaches to two different topics: whales stranding off the coast of the Netherlands, and snaring threatening African Lions. The images here were created for each of these topics respectively, and show the limitless possibilities of using art to benefit science and the preservation of biodiversity.
Different species of whales strand on the Dutch Coast bordering the North Sea, and scientists are still researching the many potential causes.
Sperm whales have been stranding on the Dutch coast for centuries because males often become misdirected on their migration path south, becoming trapped in the North Sea instead of going west around the UK towards the Equator.
Many organizations are responsible for researching beached whales. I created this visualization of sperm whales' basic anatomy to show what each institution studies what.
This is a biological depiction of a sperm whale created to be the center piece of a poster that will be used by Naturalis' team that goes to sites of whale strandings. The poster can be taken to the sites and displayed for bystanders to learn about what species has stranded and who is dissecting it.
This is the poster design complete with information about sperm whales as well as what is known about why they strand and why it is important to support the organizations researching them.
The second topic is about the threat of snaring facing African lions.
I worked with big cat biologist Alexander Braczkowski who has studied tree climbing lions in Uganda to understand how snaring has become the biggest threat facing African lions.
Snares are traps made of parts of old machinery or wire that ties around itself and tightens when an animal steps into it. They are used to catch bushmeat for sustenance but affect many species throughout Africa.
To capture the complexities of this issue and explain the dynamics of how snaring affects prides of lions in addition to people's relationship with lions, I created an interactive infographic that can be used for outreach and awareness in a comprehensive and user-friendly format.
When the lions in the graphic are clicked, storylines pop up that show what lions actually go through when they are affected by snaring.
When the first lion in the tree is clicked, this tree appears with a pride of lions. The lions in these images can be clicked to read about their stories.
The lions resting in the tree can be clicked to zoom in and display text about them.
The lions at the bottom of the tree can be clicked and zoomed in on which displays information about this mother lion taking care of her cubs.
In the infographic, the female lion can be clicked to launch a story of what happens to the dynamics of a pride when a female lion is killed or maimed by a snare.
These are the images that are launched in the infographic, which can be clicked through one at a time with the lions showing the text when clicked.
This format allows the viewer to read about the story as they want, but to see the images first and get a more personal insight about what the information in the infographic actually means is happening.
The next story is the male lion, which when clicked shows what happens to a pride when a male lion is affected by snares.
By showing a continued story of a family of lions, the impact on a pride of just one lion dying from a snare is emphasized, and the viewer can see the facts in the infographic as well as the real implications from the illustrated images.
The final storyline shows what happens when species of lions' prey are trapped in snares, and how this affects lions and their relationship with people.
Lions will look for other sources of food when prey is limited, which often lead them to feeding on livestock of farmers. These rural farmers often depend on their livestock for their livelihood and income, and are sometimes forced to retaliate by killing the lions to minimize the threat. This has drastic effects on lion populations, but it is crucial in this story to not villainize people who coinhabit the land of lions who are protecting their livelihood. Instead, the focus must be on solutions that are being implemented to benefit both lions and the people affected by them.
At the bottom of the infographic, the possible solutions are shown and can each be clicked to read about. The bottom-most one shows what the viewer can do, and displays a hopeful ending depicting a healthy pride of lions with new cubs. This was an important element in order to inspire the viewer rather than discourage, and highlight the hope in diverse applications of solutions.
My master’s thesis The Case for Creatives: Why Conservation Needs Artists explores the topic of how illustration and design can benefit conservation efforts. Two topics within conservation are compared to evaluate the diverse ways art and illustration can benefit fields of science and contribute to the protection of this planet's biodiversity. Methods of illustration and design are explored to find the most beneficial approach to address the needs of each cause with assessment of the desired target audience, marketing tactics, community-based art and conservation initiatives, and the dynamics between humans and wildlife. The two conservation topics compared are whales stranding off the coast of the Netherlands and African lions threatened by snaring. These contrasting topics create a beneficial comparison to understand how to evaluate the needs of a conservation cause and how to execute different forms of artistic approaches to contribute to conservationists' agendas through community outreach, education, marketing, and creativity.
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