I grew up in the Midwest region of the United States, swimming in lakes and hiking on the shores of Lake Superior, which generated a life-long respect for nature. My mom and sister are both art teachers and professional artists, so having a dedicated “art room” in the house was and is the family norm. As a child, I thought everyone made art. In the past, I’ve studied migratory birds in Minnesota, coral reefs in Bermuda, dolphins in Florida, and desert tortoises in the Mohave Desert. In 2000, I started a Masters Degree in conservation biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison but found that dark-topic courses such as “Extinction of Species” needed to be balanced with studio art courses. This resulted in a second degree: a Masters in Art Education. My field work took place at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in Oregon (a fantastic place!) looking at the integration of art and environmental science, and my Master’s exhibition featured paintings of sandhill cranes (I have a keen interest in migratory species!). In 2013, I moved to Brisbane from the UK (where I’d been working since 2007) to start on my doctorate in international policy support for conservation, particularly through locally-empowered management (using some Aboriginal and other case studies). While travelling for work and fun, I always carry my sketch book, often collecting natural objects for still life painting at home. I’ve also been known to do drawings on napkins when no other paper is available. The photo below is my most recent sketch of Cradle Mountain World Heritage Area in Tasmania (from last week’s visit). The pinecone is a large-scale acrylic piece which was really fun to do!