Might 16, 2022
It was her third week at William & Mary, and Anna Mehlhorn ’22 assumed she would go to a meeting of the Maritime Science Society.
“And to my shock, I was approached by a senior who was doing her honors investigation, and she was looking for support,” Mehlhorn mentioned. “And so I started out waking up at 6 a.m. as a freshman and driving in excess of to VIMS to assist her sift via all the small crustaceans that live in the seagrass of the Chesapeake Bay. I imagined that was very thrilling. That was my introduction to marine science.”
Mehlhorn saved up her maritime science research. She will graduate with the Course of 2022 with a significant in biology and a minor in artwork & art historical past. She’s melded all those two academic passions, keeping in the tradition of the naturalist-illustrators of the past.
She has been drawing for considerably longer than she’s been sifting small crustaceans. It began at the very least as significantly back again as age four.
“When I would go out to evening meal with my family, I would draw on the tiny cocktail napkins,” she reported. “I’d attract tiny airplanes. And dinosaurs.”
The incorporation of her artwork talents into her marine science research arrived amid the improvements brought about by COVID-19.
“I could not do study in the lab no one else could. So I desired to discover a way to even now continue to be involved with the lab somehow,” Mehlhorn mentioned. “And I believed that was the ideal time to deliver in my artistic pursuits, and start off accomplishing some scientific illustrations for Dr. Jon Allen’s lab.”
Allen, an associate professor in William & Mary’s Office of Biology, potential customers a marine invertebrate ecology lab in the university’s Built-in Science Middle. Mehlhorn mentioned that Allen, as perfectly as other W&M college, have been supportive of her attempts to blend art and biology.
Mehlhorn worked with Allen and other collaborators on a graphical illustration to accompany a grant software to the Integrative Investigate in Biology System at the National Science Foundation. Allen claimed the grant is pending, but if the funding comes by means of, he intends to make a poster of the illustration to be hung in a location of honor in William & Mary’s Integrated Science Centre.
“Anna has a particular potential to recognize advanced scientific concepts and translate them into visible representations that are accessible to a lay viewers,” Allen mentioned. “Anna is greatly gifted as an artist, but also has a exceptional skill to critically method the science alone and then know how to take some thing summary and make it authentic and tangible. I have not encountered a college student as expert at that in far more than 12 decades at William and Mary.“
Mehlhorn a short while ago led watercolor painting and character journaling periods at Machicomoco Point out Park and at York River State Park, situations co-sponsored by VIMS and the Chesapeake Bay Nationwide Estuarine Investigate Reserve. Mehlhorn mentioned that character journaling, the on-the-location composition of industry or lab notes with relevant illustrations, has a venerable tradition. The means to render precise representations of specimens was basically a prerequisite for biologists of the past age.
“There ended up all these terrific naturalists of the earlier like Ernst Haeckel, who was a wonderful artist,” Mehlhorn explained. “I know quite a few of the drawings from his missions – the barnacle drawings especially – are nevertheless applied currently. It truly is inspiring for me, and I am happy that I get to be a aspect of that.”
Mehlhorn said she began to thoroughly take pleasure in mother nature journaling and the relationship in between artwork and science at the Friday Harbor marine discipline station on San Juan Island, Washington. Allen and Matthias Leu, a different affiliate professor in William & Mary’s Department of Biology, carry out summer months and spring-break maritime conservation ecology classes there.
“We were being out in the industry that’s what we used most of the course undertaking in excess of spring break. And we were just noticing all the interactions in between invertebrates and the environment in the industry,” she said. “ And my group recognized how the mussels, the blue mussels that lie on the rocks all close to there, range in the way they cluster together and in their attachment to the rocky substrate.”
Mehlhorn used her trained artist’s eye, noticing the subtle variations in the mussel clusters. Her observations led to the style and design of an entire exploration challenge for the class.
“It’s crucial to do experiments in the lab, but it is also quite crucial to acquire the time to go outdoors and observe the specimens that you happen to be functioning with in mother nature, and probably sketch those people specimens in mother nature to advise your analysis in the lab,” she explained. “Because I consider you can detect so many very little nuances that way. I assume you can practice your eye to decide up on people nuances with no currently being an artist — but art absolutely can help.”
She said she prefers to get out her sketch pad when she’s by yourself in the field: “I can genuinely just be tranquil and wait around for the animals to, you know, mature at ease with me, then get some sketching performed.”
Mehlhorn claims she will sketch some specimens, these types of as individuals mussels, immediately from existence. (“They do not transfer that rapidly,” she smiles.) She may possibly use a digital camera for other subjects, having a wide variety of pictures that she will use in sketches. A great deal of her function is completed up in Photoshop.
“Photoshop is fantastic, mainly because it allows you to make this sort of fine changes,” she reported.
A typical sequence for her is to draw out, say, a butterfly wing in her sketchbook, then take a image of her drawing. She opens the picture in Photoshop.
“And then in Photoshop, I can sketch about my drawing,” she stated. “I can erase different elements, and seriously just make positive what I’m distributing is the most excellent illustration of what I’ve seen in mother nature. So it sort of lets you to clean up up drawings and enables you to replicate drawings genuinely immediately. It truly is fantastic for that, but it I imagine my sketchbook drawings certainly have a lot far more character.”
Mehlhorn has a sequence of designs for lifestyle following William & Mary. Soon after graduation, she will consider a summer months situation as a naturalist on Extensive Island Audio in the vicinity of Greenwich, Connecticut.
“I’m going to be main lessons on the shore, and just strolling readers and locals via all the various habitats alongside the Greenwich Point out Park place,” she reported, “and then coordinating distinct activities for young audiences. So I am incredibly thrilled about that.”
After the summer season naturalist gig, she will start off applying to graduate faculty courses. She hopes to do some study in the months main up to grad college, probably with the Smithsonian Tropical Analysis Institute.
“I obtained an externship with the Smithsonian that took position at the close of January,” she stated. She attended conferences and shadowed the main of functions.
“That is in which I seriously saw how I might be ready to merge my scientific and creative interests in a museum profession,” Mehlhorn claimed. “That’s my best intention, functioning in a museum like the Smithsonian, since so a lot of folks doing work there share my passions.”