We Are Here: Endangered Species of Santa Cruz County

 Juniper Harrower, UC Santa Cruz

We are losing many species at alarming rates because of our impacts on the Earth’s ecosystems. As a scientist Juniper uses her arts research practice to impact and highlight issues facing local communities. For this placemaking grant, she proposed to work with her students to create 3 projects that focus on endangered Santa Cruz county organisms: 1) an illustrated field guide, 2) exhibition ready artwork, and 3) participatory community printmaking. Students worked with researchers at the UCSC greenhouses, arboretum, and UC Reserves to illustrate threatened species, creating detailed imagery for key morphological aspects. The organisms were illustrated in the format of a triptych, used traditionally to commemorate death and loss.

She published the work in a field guide alongside natural history descriptions for the organisms and their anthropogenic threats, including a section with suggested behavioral shifts, eco-actions, and key policies and initiatives that support species sustainability. Each student carved a linoleum block of their organism for public printmaking that was held at numerous outreach events. They created 3D etched spheres of each organism (engraving will be outsourced). The ghost-like hologram etching symbolizes species loss reminding us that soon many species will only exist in memoriam, while the spheres reference fortune telling crystal balls – the organisms are not extinct yet, but could be in the near future.

This project engages the the nature/culture divide and links local species iconography to the bigger issue of human induced species loss to generate empathetic responses and hopefully motivate behavioral shifts. This was accomplished by engaging students directly in scientific research that is occurring for selected threatened organisms, and studying them at the greenhouses, the arboretum, in the classroom,

Printmaking at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

and in their native habitats to create art.This will expand to include community members through multiple participatory outreach events that will feature the linocut carvings, share the guidebook and exhibit the artwork. The sculptures will be displayed with the triptych illustrations, the field guide, and the printmaking activity at future Norris Center events, and we will also seek other exhibition opportunities both on and off campus.