Communicating science through art

Jill Pelto, who is pursuing a master’s degree in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences at the University of Maine, is passionate about communicating science in an easily understandable and visually appealing way. To raise awareness of climate change, Pelto creates watercolor paintings of landscapes and animals that incorporate scientific data in the form of graphs.


Jill Pelto:
I’m studying paleoclimate. I think what the past has to tell us is really fascinating. In order to understand the changes that are going to be coming in the future, we have to go back and study how the Earth works in the first place.

I’ve done a lot of field work that usually involves weeks of time, camping and just working outside every day. It varied from working directly on glaciers and measuring the way that they change from year-to-year now,  and then also working in environments that were glaciated or are still glaciated, but the glaciers have retreated significantly, and trying to decode the way that retreat occurred in the past.

There’s not like a beginning story for art for me, it’s my whole life. I have a twin sister, Megan, and we both, from as young as I can remember, just always created. In high school, we really both evolved to become passionate about art under the mentorship of a great teacher. We decided both to pursue it for our careers.

I call myself a climate change artist. My main goal is to use artwork to reach a broader audience, and inform people about the whole spectrum of issues involving climate change, or just the way that humans have impacted the environment in general.

Getting people to understand that we can coexist more with the natural world, preserve what we have, and protect what we have. Using actual data in my artwork, I hope to communicate more clearly that message and that trend of the change that’s going on.

If people can see, and understand, and take a moment to look at all these specific examples of the way our natural world is changing, then hopefully that will be more of an emotional response and can propagate individual actions, and then further from there, community action.

I ultimately hope to find a way throughout my career to inspire people to actually take action, to have some sort of challenge. I think this will evolve beyond just creating pieces of art. I just don’t know in which direction yet.