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From the Stacks 

July 9, 2012

Smackdown: Why’didja do that? or a brief look at scientific illustration history.

by Diane T Sands

I was asked by a colleague who viewed the Wild Pig Smackdown,

As a person who has no background in scientific illustration, I am curious to know how these two really different drawings can be produced of the same species and be useful?

This is a great question. A fair amount of historical scientific illustration, particularly during the Age of Exploration (1450-1700), was completed as a record of existence. Many of the items being illustrated on expeditions had never before been seen by Europeans and served as a record of the great things discovered, often proving to the expedition funders that their money was not wasted. Natural history specimens preserved using alcohol, drying, tanning or other means can readily lose color, shape and 3-dimensional character. Illustration was the most expedient way of preserving posture and indicating natural coloration.

While we have no real provenance for the Cole image or why it was created, it appears to fall into the this-is-what-a-boar-looks-like/historical camp.

As time has progressed, illustration remains a useful tool. Illustrators are able to show multiple or uncommon views, and to emphasize characteristics that would not be obvious in a photograph – cutaways that show animal burrows underground, or the complete cycle from flower to fruit, for example. In the systematic literature, illustrations of the whole plant or animal are often supplanted or used in combination with close-ups of the physiological or morphological characteristics that make each species unique. This can include geographic area, dentition, genitalia, or pollen structure – all things not easily photographed. The following image is one visual example.

Notida image from CAS Proceedings

Penny, N. (2002) "Lacewings of Costa Rica" Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, vol. 52 no. 12. Image 117 by Diane T Sands. Images 118, 119 by Victoria Saxe*

As I researched Sus scrofa, I thought about why someone would call me up and ask me to illustrate this species today. I also thought about what was it about this species that most interested me. What had I learned that I could convey visually? I was struck by the fact that while there are subspecies of Sus scrofa that are often isolated by region (and thus considered distinct), for the most part, the main question was: are they wild or domesticated? Since wild pigs of one sort or another have been introduced – either accidentally or purposefully – on islands around the world, the answer often blurs.

Is there an absolute distinction between the wild boar and the domestic pig? In my preparatory research, I came across an article** that looked at this issue from the point of view of prehistory, and porcine remains of archaeological digs. The illustrations accompanying the article are primarily area maps, and graphs of statistical measurement metrics. While well done and highly informative, one does need to know a higher level of vocabulary and maths to get the picture. I asked myself how I might visually explain at least one difference between a wild and a feral population in a way that even a non-biologist would understand.

The result is here.

*Victoria Saxe

** Rowley-Conwy,P., U. Albarella, and K. Dobney (2012) Distinguishing Wild Boar from Domestic Pigs in Prehistory: A Review of Approaches and Recent Results Journal of World Prehistory Vol. 25(1),  Pages 1-44. http://www.springerlink.com/content/6446560r166488x7/abstract/?MUD=MP


Filed under: Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 11:08 am

July 2, 2012

Wild Pig Smackdown

For the Illustration Smackdown explanation, click here.

From the Academy Archives:

wild boar illustrated by Michael Cole

This illustration of a wild boar was stumbled upon while looking for another image in the Academy’s oversized collection in the Archives. Little is known about how the image was used, but it came to us from our own Exhibits Department and was meticulously drawn by Michael E. Cole.


From Sands:

Sus scrofa (c)2012 Diane T Sands

The wild boar and the feral pig are considered the same species despite differences in height, weight and skull shape. I designed this illustration to highlight some of these anatomical anomalies. The skull on the left is a wild boar; the one on the right that of a feral pig.


More about
Sus scrofa:
Wild Boar, Feral Pig
The wild boar is native to Europe, but has been widely introduced as a game animal throughout the world. In North America, it has successfully interbred with escaped feral farm pigs. This has happened so much that most writings simply refer to Sus scrofa under the blanket term Wild Pigs. In California, these wild pigs run amok through open space land and regional parks. Omnivorous opportunists, they wander the landscape vacuuming up vegetation, and just about any other living thing in their path.

The females become sexually mature at 18 months of age, producing 6-10 young per litter, often having more than one litter per year. A large group of females and their recent young are called Sounders.  Adults can reach sizes over 750lbs. Males are usually solitary and can sharpen their tusks by rubbing the lowers against the uppers.

Here’s a great article about the infestation of wild pigs in the East Bay Regional Park District :
http://baynature.org/articles/oct-dec-2010/ground-invasion/?searchterm=feral%20pigs


Filed under: Archives,Library News,Research,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 11:54 am

June 18, 2012

Introducing the Illustration Smackdown.

Wrack Ball

Wrack Ball (c) Diane T Sands

In this corner…

The Academy Archives is part of the Academy Library, and includes material on the history of the institution, including scientific expeditions and research, Museum exhibits, building history, and general administrative history. The Archives also houses manuscript collections from our scientists and scientists related to the Academy. Manuscript collections are mainly comprised of field notes, unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, scientific illustrations, and photographs.

And in THIS corner…

Diane T Sands: When not working as the Collection Development Librarian here at the Academy Library, I do freelance illustration. I have been an active member of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators for the last 15 years. I have created illustrations (scientific and otherwise) for the North American Diatom Symposium, The Annals of the Entomological Society of America, The Hudson Institute, KQED’s Mind/Shift blog, The Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association, California Wild Magazine, and the education department here at the Academy, among others. Not surprisingly, my interest in the Academy Archives and Rare Book Collection is peaked whenever there are illustrations involved.***

What better way to get acquainted with the Archives and all the wonders it holds than to pit my illustration skills against it? Enter the Illustration Smackdown

The way the Illustration Smackdown works.
Each month, the archive staff, will locate an illustration in the Archives during the course of their regular work. They will not show it to me. Instead they will provide me with two pieces of information;
1. The scientific name of the plant or animal featured.
2. Whether the piece in question is a field sketch or a finished illustration
I will then have two weeks to research the species and produce my own illustration. Then we will feature the two illustrations side by side here on From the Stacks for your viewing pleasure.

Stay Tuned Illustration Lovers!
Diane T Sands
Collection Development Librarian

*** Diane will be doing a live illustration demo during the Academy’s Nightlife on Thursday, June 28, 2012


March 24, 2010

Affecting change during the International Year of Biodiversity

My name is Phoebe Buguey, and I am also a library intern at the California Academy of Sciences this semester. I am working in the library inside of the Naturalist Center as well as the Academy Library, which is part of the Research Division of the Academy. My areas of study in both libraries are reference and the creation of educational materials, and for my first blog post, I will continue in an educational vein and discuss a concept that is critical to both the Academy and the world as a whole: biodiversity.

In 2006 the United Nations declared that 2010 would be the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB), the purpose of which is “to increase understanding of the vital role that biodiversity plays in sustaining life on Earth” (http://www.cbd.int/2010/welcome/). According to the IYB Webpage, humans have identified 1.75 million species, but there are still millions of species left to be discovered, and scientists predict that the exact value lies somewhere between 2.25 to 100 million species. Calculating these numbers is challenging since many of the unidentified species are most likely microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, worms, and arthropods such as insects) that can be hard or even impossible to see with the unaided eye.

Plate showing moth illustrations from Illustrations of exotic entomology

Several moths from Illustrations of exotic entomology. (v.12 plates). Image courtesy Biodiversity Heritage Library. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org

Additionally, these unidentified, tiny organisms generally have a short generation time, which means that they reproduce rapidly and in large numbers even though their life spans may be relatively short. The quick cycling of generations in species such as these means that in a given period of time these organisms are more likely to undergo evolutionary change than species with longer generation times, and such change may lead to speciation, which is the evolutionary process that gives rise to new species. For instance, imagine a rare species of marine bacteria that is thriving on the ocean floor: it exists today in a certain form, but by the time it is discovered 100 years from now, it could be entirely changed and may in fact be two or three different species. In essence, since all species change, it is very hard to get a concrete grasp on the diversity of the planet, and since the types of species that we know the least about are those who are physically small and evolve quickly, comprehensive classification can be even more daunting than one may suspect.

Why is biodiversity important?

Ecological studies have demonstrated that the phrase the “circle of life” continues to be an appropriate natural descriptor of the interconnectedness of ecosystems, biomes, and the biosphere as a whole. We now know that preserving the entire ecosystem is central to saving species of interest, and beyond that important point, preservation focused on biodiversity can reap economic benefits as well. Sadly, even with the knowledge of both the biological and fiscal significance of biodiversity, the IYB Website reports that we are still losing species at up to 1000 times the natural background rate.

Original illustration of the thylacine

Artist labeled Didelphis cynocephala but in fact the original illustration of Thylacinus cynocephalus, or the thylacine, in Transactions of the Linnean Society. (v.9 1808). Image courtesy Biodiversity Heritage Library. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org

The dramatic extinctions of large and interesting species such as the dodo or the thylacine are usually well documented. Many people know about the 17th-century die-out of the dodo, and although fewer people may know about the 20th-century extinction of the thylacine—the largest documented carnivorous marsupial of contemporary times—it is still an important footnote in biodiversity history. However, the disappearance of smaller organisms is hard or even impossible to document. For instance, E.O. Wilson, world famous entomologist and sociobiologist, claims that there are more microorganisms in a spoonful of rich, healthy soil than there are people on planet Earth. When you stop to consider the dramatic ways in which humans change the face of the planet while keeping in mind the estimate that countless species could exist within a few square inches of soil, it’s easy to see why the current extinction rate is so elevated.

What exactly does all this have to do with libraries? Please stay tuned for my next post to learn about the Academy Library’s role in researching and preserving biodiversity.


Filed under: Library News,Research,Scientific Illustration — Intern @ 9:15 pm

October 2, 2009

1932 Templeton Crocker Expedition of the California Academy of Sciences to Mexico and the Galapagos

Last Friday night, the Academy celebrated one year in its new building with the Big Bang Gala. The Library and Archive staff was on hand, and we set up a table to display highlights from the 1932 C. Templeton Crocker Expedition of the California Academy of Sciences to Mexico and the Galapagos.

Getting fresh water, Tagus Cove. Zaca in the background.

Getting fresh water, Tagus Cove. Zaca in the background.

Charles Templeton Crocker (1884-1948) a self proclaimed explorer, sailed his yacht the Zaca around the world, covering 27, 152 miles and visiting 50 ports. He made an expedition to the Galapagos Islands for the California Academy of Sciences (March 1932 – September 1932). A 2,690 foot mountain on Indefatigable Island was named Mount Crocker in honor of his conquest of that peak. Later expeditions included Honolulu, Hawaii with the Bishop Museum (1933), Easter Island for the American Museum of Natural History (1934), Gulf of California for the New York Zoological Society (1936), Hawaii, Tongareva and Samoa for American Museum of Natural History (1936-1937). Crocker received the Ribbon of the Legion of Honor (France, 1926) for his opera “Fei-Yen-Fah”, an adaptation of a play he had written, “Land of Happiness”. He also authored The Cruise of the Zaca in 1933.

Crocker and H. Walton Clark picking up specimens

Crocker and H. Walton Clark inspecting specimens

Toshio Asaeda worked for Templeton Crocker as a photographer and artist from 1932-1938. On the 1932 expedition, Asaeda painted over three hundred water colors of fishes, crabs and marine life (featured below) and took over 1400 photographs. While Asaeda’s illustrations are beautiful works of art they are also significant scientific documents.  Asaeda captured the natural color of the animals by painting them right after they were pulled from the water. In a time before color photography was a practical endeavor, this was the best way to capture the actual coloration of specimens. Once animals are preserved in alcohol or formalin their natural color fades and although dark markings like spots and stripes can remain, scientific illustrations are the main document of these animals’ colors in the wild.

Brachyura (true crabs). A. Xanthidae; cf. Panopeus sp. from Magalena Bay, Mexico collected August 10, 1932. B. Mursia gaudichaudii (valid name Platymera gaudichaudii H. Milne Edwards, 1837). Collected August 19, 1932 San Martin Island, Mexico.

Toshio Asaeda (1893-1968) came to the United States from Tokyo as a student. In 1924, Asaeda accepted a job at the James L. Clark Studios in New York. Clark was in charge of taxidermy and exhibit preparation for the American Museum of Natural History. From 1925 to 1927, Asaeda lived in San Francisco; it was during this time that he began his forty-year relationship with the California Academy of Sciences. His initial position was as an artist for the Ichthyology Department.

In 1940, Asaeda opened his own photography studio on Grant Avenue in downtown San Francisco. This business venture ended in 1942, when Asaeda and his wife, Suzuka, were sent to an internment camp in Topaz, Utah. At the internment camp, Asaeda taught United States geography and stone polishing to adult internees.

After the war and his release from internment, Asaeda took a job preparing, drawing, and photographing fossils at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. In 1949, Asaeda accepted a position at the Academy as Assistant Curator in the Department of Exhibits, a job which allowed him to use his considerable artistic and technical skills. Asaeda retired in 1965 to begin work on his garden. He died on March 18, 1968.

Additional Asaeda watercolors are featured in the Academy’s Islands of Evolution exhibit on the main floor.

Carides; Crago sp. (shrimp). Collected Cedros Island, Mexico on August 18, 1932. 8" x 10" plate.

Nexilosus albermarleus (Damselfish) Tagus Cove, Albermarle Island, Galapagos. Collected May 26, 1932. Valid name Nexilosus latifrons (Tschudi, 1846).

- Danielle Castronovo, Archives and Digital Collections Librarian

* Crocker and Asaeda’s biographical information was taken from departmental finding aids.

* Dave Catania from Ichthyology supplied information on specimen preparation.


Filed under: Archives,Scientific Illustration — Archives & Special Collections @ 9:56 am
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