Linking art and science for positive environmental change

Animating Science to Help Protect Joshua Trees

Human activities have catapulted us into the sixth major extinction event on our planet where we will continue to see rapid species loss with far reaching consequences. Art has the potential to connect people to concepts at an emotional level and is a powerful tool to communicate difficult science concepts. Artist and scientist Juniper Harrower  translates her recent ecological discoveries into a stop motion animation with the help of animators Lauren Benzaquen, Grace Ackles, Hannah Caisse, and professional doll maker Dayle McKinney.

Joshua trees are under threat from climate change and Juniper’s ecological research focuses on how the plants are reproducing across Joshua Tree National Park, and if the plants’ key symbiotic interactions will be affected by the changing climate.  She hopes to capture the complex behavioral ecology and data into an emotional story that is both accessible to a wide audience and scientifically accurate.  This stop motion animation project is advised by Jennifer Parker, UCSC Professor of Art and Digital New Media, sponsored by the Joshua Tree National Park Association, the Norris Center for Natural History, iSWOOP, and co-produced by OpenLab and Porter College at UC Santa Cruz. 

The project will culminate in 2019 with a film screening, art show featuring the sets and characters, and an ecological talk.