In this 34-minute episode, UC Santa Cruz artist/scientist Juniper Harrower places the iconic Joshua Tree in the context of the desert, her PhD research (complete with her mom and a ladder), then moves on to the implications of climate change on the tree (min. 6), and her own nod to social media’s dating power for the tree (min. 12).
She then moves on to the balance of the throngs of tourists now visiting the park, stretching public services (min. 24), which medium she prefers to make an impact (min. 27) and closes out with her favorite spot (min.33).
The Mojave desert is a strange and intriguing piece of American subculture. Kim Stringfellow – transmedia documentarian and professor of art at San Diego State University, weaves a narrative with haunting imagery, video, art, and stories collected from and inspired by people of the Mojave Desert. Juniper Harrower’s Joshua tree ecology and arts research is featured in her latest dispatch by the talented writer Chris Clarke.
“Given this slender reed of hope, perhaps a bit of deliberate optimistic mythmaking is in order. But imagine those Sierra Nevada clumps of Joshua trees persisting, growing by cloning themselves, flowering often enough to maintain a population of yucca moths. Every so often a fruit with viable seed offers itself up to the local antelope ground squirrels. Every so often one of those fruits rolls downhill and to the west. In time—a long, long time, well after the last industrial farm is long forgotten and the freeways are fossilized outcrops—clonal clumps of Joshua trees appear at the mouth of the Kern River canyon on the floor of the San Joaquin Valley. They populate the southern Sierra foothills. Moth larvae delve the deeper soil of the Valley. San Joaquin antelope squirrels decide to cache Joshua tree seeds.”
SymbioArtlab Creator Earns Artist Residency at UCSC's Norris Center
For this art/science collaboration, Juniper Harrower has translated her doctoral research into a narrative for stop motion animation. Joshua trees are under threat from climate change. Her ecological research focuses on how the plants are reproducing across Joshua Tree National Park, and whether the plants’ key symbiotic interactions will be affected by the changing climate.
Seeking Symbiosis: Featured at IDEA Hub Innovator Fair
Our eco-clothing line Seeking Symbiosis was thrilled to receive a second round of start-up funding for innovating design through IdeaHub. At the launch party we shared ideas with an inspiring group of entrepreneurs and discussed strategies for success.
At Seeking Symbiosis we design and execute stylish prints for clothing and accessories that depict species interactions found in nature. Our artists work with ecological scientists to fabricate unique designs to be featured on the clothing which is then linked to research descriptions through our website.
Learn more and check out the connection of science and art through clothing, research, and collaboration on seekingsymbiosis.com.
Iconic Joshua Trees may disappear - but scientists are fighting back.
By Philip Kiefer
(Full story available on the National Geographic website)
The desert’s harshness breeds strange bedfellows—desert bats fly hundreds of miles in the night to feed on agave, and seedlings often rely on their dead forebears to provide shelter. But those relationships can make it hard to adapt in a changing climate.
Rising temperatures have set the natural world creeping uphill or northwards in search of relief. But ecosystems don’t move in lock-step. The foxes might outpace the tortoises which might outpace the trees. In the process, the ecological deck is shuffled. These changes threaten to unravel the interspecies networks on which desert organisms depend. And the Joshua tree, an international symbol of the American desert, seems to have been dealt a bad hand.
Joshua trees are pollinated by a tiny moth, no bigger then an apple seed! Artist-in-residence and featured scientist Juniper Harrower works with Joshua Tree National Park rangers through iSWOOP to bring her research to the public in creative ways: Juniper creates animation, props, and illustrations about her research in Joshua Tree National Park!
Desert Symbiosis is a stop motion animation that links an educational narrative with beautiful, two-dimensional animated paper imagery to tell the story of Joshua trees and their symbiotic partnerships under a changing climate.
Artists and budding naturalists should make their way up to the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History at UC Santa Cruz on November 4-5.
The center’s sixth-annual all-ages open house and fundraiser will place a strong emphasis on natural illustration. The aptly titled “Artstravaganza!,’” will take place at the Norris Center in the Natural Sciences 2 Building, room 239.
Students and members of the Santa Cruz community will have a chance to learn about illustrating nature and find out how to make prints using linoleum cuts. The open house lasts from noon to 5 p.m. on both days. Though admission is free, donations to the Norris Center are encouraged.
It makes sense that art and nature would join forces at this community-friendly event, said Norris Center curator Chris Lay. Artists and naturalists both benefit from “slowing down, looking carefully at living things and making good observations,” Lay noted.
With this principle in mind, Artstravaganza! will feature a student art show, hands-on art making and face painting, and artist talks and demonstrations from several student and locally renowned nature artists. Talks and demonstrations will start at 1, 2:30, and 4 p.m. each day.
On Saturday at 1 p.m., Juniper Harrower will give a multimedia presentation inspired by research in Joshua Tree National Park. At 2:30 p.m. that day, Emily Underwood will talk to guests about natural history print-making. Then, at 4 p.m., guests are invited to a special presentation by artist Josie Iselin, known for her captivating fine-art photography that captures the colors and textures of seaweed, marine algae, beach stones, and other treasures she discovers while walking along the seashore.
On Sunday, Dillyn Adamo will talk about linocut printmaking of California native plants, followed, at 2:30 p.m., by Hannah Caise, who will discuss the use of markers in scientific illustration. At 4 p.m., Mattias Lanas will close out the day by providing “perspectives in botanical illustration.”
Also on display will be various natural history exhibits featuring specimens from the Norris Center’s growing collections, including butterflies and moths from around the world, mammals, birds, reptiles, and much more.
It’s all part of a program that is part of the Norris Center’s community outreach. “We don’t have a large public display space,” Lay said. “These events become important ways to communicate to the larger public, the student body, and the larger community about what we are doing and what we support.”
The Norris Center was established in 2014 as part of an endowment gift from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Its mission is to inspire and provide resources for anyone interested in studying the natural world. Through its work, the center carries on the legacy of beloved UC Santa Cruz environmental studies professor Ken Norris, a world-renowned expert in whales and dolphins who inspired many generations of UCSC students to pursue their passions as naturalists. Norris died in 1998. Currently, thanks to a generous donor, the center is expanding art/nature-related opportunities for students and the broader community.
Free parking will be available at the Core West Parking Structure. Close parking for mobility-impaired guests will be available in the small parking lot adjacent to the loading dock of the Science and Engineering Library.
Geoffrey Thomas imagines a future with seed-spreading tarantula robots and genetically-engineered giant sloths.
These whimsical ideas, the subject of three digital art images, have a ring of truth, said Thomas, who collaborated with Juniper Harrower, a UCSC environmental studies graduate student studying the tree. The duo is planning to create an educational mobile app and short animations from the sketches within the next year. Once found throughout the American Southwest, the tree is now only found in California’s Joshua Tree National Park and small areas of Utah, Nevada and Arizona. As deserts become hotter and drier, the tree’s range marches north toward higher and cooler elevations, as animals carry the seeds in their digestive tracts.
Seeds were once spread by car-sized sloths, now extinct. Now the tree depends mostly on rats, which can’t spread it fast enough to keep up with climate change, said Harrower.
Within 60 to 90 years, climate models predict that most of the Joshua trees within the national park will disappear, she said. Thomas said humans have transformed the planet and must be intimately involved in saving it, an idea that shapes his art.“We are nature now. It’s not a separate thing from us,” Thomas said.
Thomas and Harrower also co-led a digital art class this fall in which students created their own Joshua tree projects. Harrower, a guest lecturer, spoke about the tree’s fragile future and took students to a campus greenhouse showcasing 20-year-old Joshua tree seedlings, which grow to around 40 feet as adults over hundreds of years.
Harrower said a partnership between artists and scientists is critical, not only to help science reach a wide audience, but also to push thought beyond the obvious. “I think you can get this really interesting, beautiful science from these massive paradigm shifts, which comes from being open to creative thought,” said Harrower, also UCSC’s Women in Sciences and Engineering art and science outreach officer.
Using Adobe Illustrator or digital photography, students created short comic strips inspired by the tree’s plight. Camilly Pereira, a senior art and economics double major, said she was struck by the crucial relationship between the tree and the yucca moth, the only animal which pollinates it. Joshua tree flowers, in turn, are the only place where yucca moths lay eggs.
Pereira spent more than 40 hours creating three simple, clear images: a cocoon, a seed and a flowering tree covered in moths, she said.
“I just thought it was a really good visual representation of how much the Joshua tree not only depends on the yucca moth, but also how much we depend on plants and animals to keep things thriving for us too,” Pereira said.