GNSI concurrent presentations cover current topics that are useful to a professional scientific illustrator including scientific research, art techniques, recent adventures, and more.

See the Schedule-at-a-glance

Questions? Contact the Program Coordinators.

The narrowly endemic crevice salamander (Plethodon longicrus), ©JJ Apodaca

JJ Apodaca

Conserving the rare and imperiled amphibians and reptiles of the southern Appalachians

Dr. Apodaca will be discussing his and others efforts to protect and conserve some of the amazing amphibians and reptiles native to the southern Appalachians. Species include the charismatic hellbender, bog turtles, and green salamanders.

Paul J. Bartels

The Microscopic World of Water Bears

Paul Bartels and his students at WWC have been exploring the world of tardigrades or water bears for over 15 years. First in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, then in tropical marine areas around the world, they have discovered over 20 species new to science. Paul calls water bears "charismatic microfauna" and he will introduce you to these remarkable, poorly studied animals with photos, videos, and a hands-on lab tour demonstrating collecting and photomicroscopy techniques.

A science teacher tries his hand at drawing museum specimens during a workshop on scientific illustration., ©2016 Jessie Martin, Smithsonian Science Education Center.

Rob Bierregaard releases a young Osprey just fitted with a satellite transmitter on Cape Cod., ©2008. Craig Gibson. Photo supplied courtesy of Craig Gibson

Sally J. Bensusen

The Leonardo Principle: Observation Practice That Informs the Integration of Science and Art Education

When you hear the word “science,” what other words come to mind? Biology? Chemistry? Physics?

The bet is: “art” isn’t one of them. OK, maybe that’s not an entirely fair test. But art and science occupy two sides of the same coin. Both involve exploration. Both use experimentation. Both endeavor to discover. And both share the act of careful observation.

This presentation highlights a training experience with science teachers to show how we, as scientific illustrators, are uniquely qualified to help enhance science learning: We can use workshop exercises to teach others (children, parents, etc.) better observation skills through targeted art practices.

Richard O. Bierregaard

There and Back Again: Satellite Tracking Osprey Migration

When, in the mid 1990s, technological advances permitted us to build radio transmitters capable of sending signals to satellites orbiting the earth and small enough to place on an Osprey, windows into their lives away from the nest were thrown wide open. When they migrate, do they follow the same path each year? Do they winter in the same locations? Where in the migratory cycle does most mortality occur? Are there bottlenecks where conservation intervention might help the species? How do young birds find their way to South America? Is the timing and relative importance of different sources of mortality the same for adults as it is for juveniles on their first migration south?

Rob Bierregaard has been tracking Ospreys in the eastern U.S. since 2000. He has deployed satellite transmitters on 56 juvenile and 47 adult Ospreys. His studies—the first to collect a significant body of data on juvenile migration—have led to surprising discoveries about the dispersal and migration of naïve Ospreys as they leave their natal territories and explore the world around them.

His experiences inspired him to write a children’s book, Belle’s Journey, illustrated by Kate Garchinsky, scheduled for release in 2018 (Charlesbridge Publishing).

Snapshot of the Death Valley Ecosystem, ©2016

Liz Bradford

Creating Detailed Ecosystem Art for the National Park Service

How do you represent the totality of a place - fitting all of its life and features into one image? This talk will detail the process of creating vivid ecosystem art - from initial conception to the final brush strokes. Liz will discuss her technique for several projects completed over the years for the National Park Service.

© 2017, Keila Bredehoeft

Sprite sheet of a barn owl (Tyto alba) in flight. Created in Adobe Flash, Illustrator, and Photoshop by Quinn Burrell, 2016, ©Game Changer Chicago 2016

Keila Bredehoeft

Handheld digital laser scanning and laser-based stereolithography 3D printing of vertebrate fossils for research and education at the Gray Fossil Site Natural History Museum, East Tennessee State University

Get an overview of the digitization program at the Gray Fossil Site Natural History Museum at East Tennessee State University. Techniques for creating high resolution digital models of vertebrate fossils using state of the art portable handheld laser scanners (Artec spider) and medical CT software (Materialize Mimics) will be covered. 3D printing using laser-based stereolithography printers will be covered, and we’ll discuss the capabilities of different types of 3D printers and see what a 3D printed object can look like. We'll also discuss some of the research and educational applications of digital models and prints and their role in our work on the recently discovered mastodon skeleton here at Gray Fossil Site Natural History Museum.

Quinn Burrell

Animation for Digital Games: Introduction to Sprite Sheets

Video games are becoming a valuable tool for teaching as well as entertainment. Quinn Burrell, lead artist for Game Changer Chicago, will talk about how to create and implement art assets into a game and the importance of video games in a scientific research setting.

In My Studio, W.H. Gibson, Ink, 1892,
©1892 WH Gibson

Mary Ellen Carsley

William Hamilton Gibson: Naturalist/Illustrator

During the Gilded Age American Illustration became a significant force in media culture. William Hamilton Gibson, naturalist, lecturer and, illustrator, was a luminary of this time and popular figure. His life and work are all but forgotten today, but his influence on backyard environmentalism and defining visual communication in the natural sciences has lasted well into the 21st century.

Narceus americanus,© 2016 Kefyn Catley

Kefyn Catley

Illustrating Life on a Little Known Planet: the Hidden World of Arthropods.

This presentation explores the hidden world of arthropods and the vital role they play in maintaining the planet’s life support systems. Featuring his acclaimed arthropod photographs Kefyn’s presentation will highlight some of the challenges that face both photographers and illustrators as they strive to create images that are both artistically pleasing and scientifically informative.

Jumbled fossil skeleton of dire wolf used in the McKittrick Fossil Find classroom activity., Helina Chin © 2016 UC Museum of Paleontology

Helina Chin

Suite Design! Creating Education and Outreach Materials with Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

Utilizing Adobe's Big 3: Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign to make education and outreach materials for the University of California Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley (UCMP). UCMP graphic designer Helina Chin talks through her process of creating educational materials such as the Fossil Find classroom activities, interactive food web, and site reconstruction for the McKittrick Tar Seep fossil collection. Long thought to be an urban legend, the story of fossils in the bell tower is actually true. Until recently, the McKittrick fossils were stored in the Campanile since their collection in the early 1900s. With support from an Institute of Museum and Library grant, UCMP was finally able to prepare, catalogue and digitize the collection, as well as make educational resources about the Pleistocene animals, the environment they lived in, and the geology of the area.

Dart Frog Study. Dendrobatidae. Photoshop, ©2016, Sarah Dahlinger

Spread from "The Secret Life of the Red Fox" illustrated by Kate Garchinsky

Sarah Dahlinger

Making Custom Paper Textures and Using Watercolor Brushes in Photoshop

Sarah Dahlinger will teach you how to make digital custom paper textures and use digital watercolor color brushes.

Kate Garchinsky

I Am The Fox: Illustrating Non-Fiction Nature Stories for Children (and Parents)

Have you ever wondered if your work could cross over into children's publishing? Is there a place for your scientific style and sensitivities in this market? Narrative nonfiction (aka literary or creative nonfiction) is a genre growing in popularity among children, librarians, teachers, even trade bookstores. These books artfully blur the line between fact and fiction, linking STEM with creativity. Learn the unique challenges and rewards of storytelling in narrative nonfiction with an illustrator who's just broken into the market.

Equine skull, equine guttural pouch and canine heart created by Christine Cote, Matt Crotts and Stephanie Pfeiffer., © 2017, University of Georgia

Drawing and Glass Model of Octopus. © Courtesy of the Corning Museum of Glass and Cornell University

Brad Gilleland

Creating the next generation of educational materials in a college of veterinary medicine

Educational Resources, a department in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia, is striving to develop the next generation of interactive educational materials. Working collaboratively with faculty members, undergraduate students in scientific illustration, animation and game design, and K-12 teachers, personnel in Educational Resources are working to address a problem that they perceive to be hampering education from kindergarten through medical school: students’ reliance on memorization of facts rather than mastery of concepts. This presentation will review Educational Resource’s approach to addressing this problem through the development of well designed, interactive educational materials that focus on topics today’s students struggle to master.

Gretchen Kai Halpert

Models for Drawings and Drawings for Models


Room Number

Scientific illustrators employ whatever means help accomplish their goals. They design models, maquettes, to help visualize and draw their subjects, and they make careful observational drawings in order to create models. This presentation explores both, with a focus on the historic drawings and glass models by Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka.

Cloudless Sulfur chrysalis, watercolor, ©2016 Hoopes.

David Killpack - Illumination Studios

Illuminated Net Devil, Linophryne arborifera

Reconstruction image of Three Euharamiyidan species from Liaoning Province, China, during Jurassic period, Xianshou linglong, Shenshou lui and Xianshou songae feeding on insects among the branches of a gingko tree. Mark Anton Klingler, pencil and color pencil on vellum digitally assembled and edited in Adobe Photoshop, ©2014

Molly Ozella Hoopes

Teaching about Monarch Butterflies and Biodiversity: From depleted habitat in Mexico’s central highlands to new habitat on Hart-Miller Island, Maryland

Molly has been travelling between Maryland and Mexico, drawing, and using art activities to teach children about Nature. In Mexico, she has watched avocado plantations replace endangered pine-oak forests. As Park Ranger on Hart-Miller Island (HMI), she has witnessed the transformation of heavily eroded islands into a birder's paradise with a rich diversity of insects. Take away creative multi-curricular Nature and Art lessons,and learn how you can help monarch butterflies. Hart-Miller Island (HMI), constructed of dredged material at the mouth of Back River in the Chesapeake Bay is prime bird habitat along the Atlantic Flyway. In addition, monarch butterflies embark from HMI every fall to head south to their Mexico wintering grounds. In this presentation, Molly, who worked as a seasonal Park Ranger on HMI, will share her illustrations of moths, butterflies, milkweed, and flowers in a variety of media - graphite, colored pencil, watercolor, ink and scratchboard. She will discuss the island’s history and show photos of its biodiversity as an example of humankind's ability to create habitat to replace some of that which is being destroyed at such an alarming rate. She will also talk about threats to Mexico’s biodiversity and her upcoming botanical art ecotour to the monarch sanctuaries.

David Killpack

Zbrush - Organic Digital Sculpture

The program will cover the rise of zbrush, the presenter's adoption of the program and how it is used in his studio today. Examples of current projects ranging from illustration, animation, and interactive design will be provided with diverse subject matter ranging from arthropod anatomy to medical device MOAs.

Mark A. Klingler

Reconstructing Three New Rodent-like Jurassic Mammals of China

See how a scientific illustrator reconstructs extinct critters from the fossil record! Mark Klingler works with some of the world's leading scientists to piece together the lives of three newly discovered Euharamiyidan species of Liaoning Province, China during the Jurassic, some 300-160 million years ago. Xianshou linglong, Shenshou lui and Xianshou songae species are from a rare group of "rodent-like" mammals, which supports the idea that mammals, including: egg-laying monotremes, marsupials and placentals originated some fifty million years earlier in the late Triassic than previous research suggests. Working with paleontologist Shundong Bi, the final image was used for press of the research article in esteemed journal Nature, of which the original description was published online and later in the magazine. Learn how Klingler merged traditional and digital techniques together, "Hybrid Approach," to bring these extinct creatures back to life.

One approach to portraying animal diversity: will it impact student understanding about animals in the world? (spoiler alert: it does), 2015 J. Landin

Jennifer Landin

Animal Diversity in Biology Texts: How Images Promote Misconceptions

Do textbooks accurately reflect animal diversity in images? If not, does that discrepancy influence student conceptions? Landin analyzed 141 college introductory biology textbooks to determine the percentage of each phyla found in figures. With these data, she assessed student views of animal diversity using four infographics: 1) the evolutionary tree (most common overarching image in textbooks), 2) a graphic using textbook percentages, 3) a graphic using equal percentages, and 4) and graphic using biologically-accurate percentages. Results indicate that textbooks overrepresent vertebrates and underrepresent arthropods. Students who received the graphic reflecting these percentages also overestimated vertebrate diversity. Students also found the evolutionary tree to be least informative. Landin concludes that textbook representations may be harming student conceptions of animal diversity.

Cellular Landscape of the Immuno-Peptidome. Layla Lang, Cinema4D and Adobe Photoshop, ©2017 Layla Lang.

Layla Lang

Creating a Molecular Landscape in 3D

Layla Lang specializes in the visualization of complex cellular processes and topics. She creates rich 3D illustrations that take the viewer to the molecular world inside the body. Layla will demonstrate the process of how she creates such a molecular landscape based on one of her recent projects, an illustration of the immuno-peptidome (the collection of peptides displayed on the cell surface by major histocompatibility complex molecules). Layla will show how she composites her illustrations in Adobe Photoshop while creating the main layers in the 3D program Cinema 4D.

Fragment of Decorated Vessel, 15 Rosa Loveszy

Renders of 3D Digital Virtual Heart

2016, Dave Mauriello & Jeremy Fernsler

Field Sketchbook entry: Oilbird study at Asa Wright Nature Center, Trinidad; Tiffany Miller Russell; graphite, colored pencil, Copic marker; ©2016

To tweet or not to tweet? Is that the question? ©2017 Kalliopi Monoyios

Rosa Loveszy

The Catacombs of Santa Lucia - A Reconstruction

History has shown that each culture has unique ways of honoring the dead. In the catacombs of Santa Lucia in Syracuse, several thousand tombs have been carved out over the centuries. Today visitors are left with a different impression of the environment than initially intended by the artisans and architects of the third and fourth century. While excavating tombs Rosa Loveszy pieced together images based on clues found at the site and in historical documents. Two and three dimensional reconstruction of the environment and other elements have lead Rosa to develop images that bring the dead back to life.

Dave Mauriello

Development of a 3D Digital Virtual Heart for Visualization


Room Number

The presentation covers the development of the modeling, rigging and animation techniques involved in developing a digital virtual heart.

Tiffany Miller Russell

A Trinidad Travelogue

Only seven miles of the coast of Venezuela, the island country of Trinidad and Tobago is geologically part of mainland South America. Wealthy and ethnically diverse, birthplace of limbo and steelpan music, it is part of the Caribbean culturally and politically. The rich biodiversity of the country comes from a unique blend of mainland and island life. A major migration stop for birds of both northern and southern hemispheres, the country boasts 469 bird species, as well as 700 orchids, 125 herptiles, 620 butterflies, and 108 mammals, throughout varied swamp, plain, beach, and mountain rainforest ecosystems, all in an area of only 1850 square miles. In 2016, Tiffany Miller Russell visited Trinidad as part of the Don Eckelberry Scholarship Award from the Society of Animal Artists. Join Tiffany as she explores natural Trinidad, from the feisty hummingbirds and eerie oilbirds of Asa Wright Nature Center, to the arboreal silky anteaters of the mangrove Caroni Swamp, and nesting giant leatherbacks of the northeast beaches.

Kalliopi Monoyios

Social Media Strategies

If you’re on social media already you might wonder from time to time if the grass is greener on Instagram or Twitter. If you’re not on social media, you might be wondering what on earth all this Twinstagramming is about. Either way, this lively presentation by our Social Media Director on what-social-media and why-social-media will leave you with plenty of exposure to how artists in all disciplines are harnessing its power to boost their careers in truly creative ways. Bring an open mind and we think you’ll come away with a fresh view on what social media can do for you.

Red Maple - The Weaver, 2015, Preston Montague

Preston Barrett Montague

Rooting into the Center: Finding a Voice through Botanical Illustration

We all have a story about how botanical illustration allows us to live our truth and influence the lives of others. Join Preston Montague for a heartfelt reflection on how he found his center and drew his way to freedom by illustrating the plants of the North Carolina mountains.

"Sonoran Desert Bloom", Pima pineapple/Coryphantha robustispina, Rhonda Nass, Acrylic on canvas, 2009

(with permission for self-promotion from Arizona Sonora Desert Museum), 2009, Rhonda Nass

A new hydrophobic coating for sand grains, allows for substancial reduction on water loss through evaporation.

2016, KAUST, Xavier Pita

Rhonda J Nass

Acrylic/Colored Pencil "Layering" for Drama & Detail

Contemporary colored pencil and acrylic artworks are a far cry from grade school drawings and past projects with palette knives applying globs of garish color. Through Nass' drawing and painting processes she'll present fresh, practical helps for all visual artists (applicable for most media). Tips will include:

1. Choosing a specific color for your support (e.g. a deep navy canvas), determined by the subject’s predominant color, will result in less production time (more money/hour);

2. Extrapolating from Nass’ airplane stroke layering technique;

3. Creating a future reference tool, a color-match strip, to record dead-on matches between subject’s and artwork’s colors;

4. Using a sanity window to give confidence to the artist to comfortably complete complex details throughout composition, eliminating the sense of being lost/overwhelmed;

5. Incorporating seven shortcuts to produce impactful, three-dimensional perspective within two-dimensional work;

6. Discover aces to add to artworks that catapult art from ordinary to extraordinary.

Images of colleagues’ artworks in colored pencil and acrylic reproduced from diverse venues (publishing, advertising, educational, editorial, museum, corporate, and private commissions) is dessert--creative works to inform and inspire any in the visual arts.

Q&A, demonstrations of Nass’ drawing and painting technique, and originals for viewing will follow.

Ivan Gromicho, Heno Hwang and Xavier Pita

Scientific Illustration at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

In our presentation, we will explain how we work as scientific illustrators at KAUST, a new university in Saudi Arabia (established in 2009). We will start by contextualizing our location and highlighting cultural differences we encountered as ex-patriots in Saudi Arabia. We will then describe the experience of working and living in a multicultural/multinational gated community. We will then focus on the University and introduce the main research areas of the university. We will explain how the scientific illustration service was originally created and how we work now, showing examples of the illustrations that have been produced at KAUST. Our goal with this presentation is to share our experience of working in this specific environment with other scientific illustrators.

Eohippus maquette, Eohippus sp., Reid Psaltis, plastiline clay, 2016, ©2016, Reid Psaltis

Reid Psaltis

Building an Eohippus: Using Grant Funding to Create Your Own Opportunities

Reid Psaltis received a 2017 Project Grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council in Oregon to create a life-sized sculpture of the prehistoric horse eohippus. In this talk Reid will discuss the process and method of creating the model including research, sculpting, molding and casting, as well as the writing the grant.

Palette for "Pictures at an Exhibition", 2014, Scott Rawlins

W. Scott Rawlins

Exploring Chromesthesia

Chromesthesia is a form of synesthesia in which auditory signals (sounds) involuntarily evoke an experience of color. Essentially, “chromesthetes” see sounds as color. During the course of this presentation, the phenomenon of synesthesia will be explored with particular emphasis on chromesthesia, as related by individuals who possess this ability or have augmented their nervous system to gain an allied ability. Using examples from history, participants will learn about the various musical innovations that have allowed artists to transform sound into color as well as reflect upon a little-known modern art movement known as “Synchromism.”

Corner detail of the unfinished Widji painting. Lore Ruttan, watercolor and ink, 2016. © 2016, Lore Ruttan

Lore Ruttan

Painting a Community: The Widji Project

Four years and four months from submitting a proposal to delivering the painting, four feet by three feet in size, this project provided a host of learning opportunities. The request for proposals asked for a piece of artwork to commemorate the current capital campaign for Camp Widjiwagan, a YMCA affiliated wilderness camp set on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota. In this talk, Lore shares her journey creating a piece of work that celebrates the community of people and the community of plants and animals that makes Widjiwagan such a special place.

Under the Moon's Shadow, Karen Teramura

Common fossils from the Gray site. Pictured supplied by Wallace.

Epona, the Horse goddess of the ancient Celts, from which the word 'pony' derives. ©2015 Terryl Whitlatch.

Karen Teramura

Under the Moon's Shadow: Preparing for the 21 August 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

On 21 August 2017 the umbral path for a total solar eclipse will cross the United States, starting from the northwest and ending in the southeast, with a total duration of 90 minutes. It is estimated that more than 127.5 million US residents live within 300 miles of the path of totality. Hear how a scientific illustrator became involved with an international group dedicated to science and public outreach to prepare communities along the 70 mile wide path of the Moon's shadow. Where will you be on August 21, 2017?

Steve Wallace

The Gray Fossil Site: A Unique Forest Refugium from the Appalachians of Tennessee

In May of 2000, TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation) crews working on a road-widening project near the town of Gray (Gray Fossil Site of eastern Tennessee, USA) discovered an unusually dark, clay-rich deposit containing numerous fossils. Geologic interpretation of the Gray site indicates that the deposit formed within a sinkhole that initially may have acted as a natural trap, then subsequently as a watering hole/pond. Core samples show that the fossil-rich sediments cover roughly 4- 5 acres and are up to 35-45 meters thick. The highly laminated, organic laden, silty sediments are rich in both plant and animal remains. Based on the stratigraphic occurrence of the rhino Teleoceras and the short-faced bear Plionarctos, the age of the sediments is restricted to the late Miocene-early Pliocene (likely, Late Hemphillian) between 4.5-7 million yr BP. Due to a paucity of similar-aged deposits within the Appalachians (or east-central North America in general), this site offers a significant opportunity to “fill in a gap” in the fossil record.

Terry Whitlatch

Beyond Anatomy-Creating Creaturely Characters one can Believe In

Once an artist has a working knowledge of human and animal anatomy, how is that skill applied in designing memorable characters and creatures that resonate with the audience, so essential to the success of any production, be it Animation, Print/publishing, or Educational/Institutional. World renowned Creature Designer Terryl Whitlatch shares her methodology and mindset in this engaging, image filled presentation.

Figure 2: Reconstruction, appendicular skeletal anatomy, and bone histology of Dreadnoughtus schrani. Skeletal reconstruction by L. Wright, with G. Schultz. Adobe Photoshop, 2014., Kenneth J. Lacovara, Matthew C. Lamanna, Lucio M. Ibiricu, Jason C. Poole, Elena R. Schroeter, Paul V. Ullmann, Kristyn K. Voegele, Zachary M. Boles, Aja M. Carter, Emma K. Fowler,et al. 2014. A Gigantic, Exceptionally Complete Titanosaurian Sauropod Dinosaur from Southern Patagonia, Argentina. Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 6196

Wild for MY Life!

Picture supplied courtesy of Wild for Life

Lindsay Wright

Working with Paleontologist to Draw a Skeletal Reconstruction, from Fossil to Publication

Through an informal internship with Dr. Matthew Lamanna at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Lindsay Wright was guided in digitally drawing a skeletal reconstruction of a new Titanosaur species; Dreadnoughtus schrani, the largest and most complete Titanosaur to date. This talk will focus on the process of collaborating with co-authoring scientists from images, measurements, and descriptions of the fossil, to the final published skeletal reconstruction.

Susan Wright & Mary Beth Bryman

Rescue and Rehabilitation of Birds of Prey at Wild for Life

Wild for Life will engage and inform the audience about the world of wildlife rehabilitation. Also discussed will be aspects of conservation, environmental education and co-existing with wildlife. The audience will be enchanted with live birds of prey that will be special guests. These birds are non-releasable because of the injuries they sustained. Because of these injuries they cannot be released back to the wild. Wild for Life possesses permits from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to possess these birds. There will also be handouts and display materials.