First scientific illustration intern brings to life extinct species

Studying science does not have to always be charts, facts and figures. It can be engaging with wondrous illustration, breathing new life into frog species long since gone.

“The internship is part of a broader project on amphibian extinctions that I run. We’ve been working on amphibian conservation for a while and then we had this idea of combining art and science to raise awareness about amphibian conservation,” biological sciences professor Pedro Peloso said.

Jamie Hefley is the first in the newly launched Scientific Illustration internship.

She is a graduate of Iowa State University’s Biological and Medical Illustration program and came to Humboldt as the first intern.

Hefley is getting to work on showcasing the past through her illustrations. That task sounds easy on paper, but hard in practice.

“It’s a decent challenge. It’s sort of like paleo art, so if you think about the dinosaurs, someone had to recreate or re imagine them. And that’s sort of what we’re doing here and it’s part of the reason why it’s important,” Hefley said. “They don’t have a face, there are no photographic records of them while alive and it’s really important to give them a portrait and bring them back to life.”

Hefley relies on written descriptions of the extinct species, museum specimens and photos of living frogs that may share similarities.

Then, she creates illustrations like these for two tree frogs last seen in 1963 and 1992.

“I think that with art we can inspire a greater appreciation and understanding for the natural world and in turn encourage efforts to protect and conserve it,” Hefley said. “They’re one of the most endangered animal groups globally and are largely overlooked. I really hope through the work that I’m doing here, we can bring attention toward the amphibians of our planet.”

A second intern arrives next semester from Mexico. The internship’s focus right now is on threatened species and starting with Brazilian frogs.

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