Monday, March 30, 2015

Immortal Jellyfish

Immortal Jellyfish
Immortal Jellyfish, Ele Willoughby (c) 2015, 11" x 14" (27.9 cm x 35.6 cm)
This hand-printed linocut of the Turritopsis dohrnii is the only known animal to be able to revert to its younger colonial stage after having reached maturity - that is the full-grown T. dohrnii jellyfish medusa, if it gets stressed, or old and sick, can revert back to the polyp stage, form a new polyp colony and start all over. So in theory, the jellyfish can bypass death and this cycle can go on forever. The jellyfish is "biologically immortal"! In the real world, there are diseases and predators which interfere with the T. dohrnii's plans of immortality, of course... but unlike the rest of us, it's not an impossible jellyfish dream.

T. dohrnii are hydrozoans which begin life as a sort of free floating fertilized egg known as planula larvae, a sort of plankton. These settle on the seafloor and a colony of polyps, or hydroids, attached to the seafloor like a little garden of multi-branched soon-to-be-jellyfish. The jellyfish, or medusae, bud off these polyps, each a genetically identical clone to the next. The medusae swim freely until sexual maturity. After that, should the T. dohrnii face environmental stress, assault or simply age and illness, it can revert to the polyp form, found a new colony and begin again! This cycle can, in theory, repeat ad infinitum.

The "immortal jellyfish" was formerly classified as T. nutricula, which had also been confused with the similar T. rubra. It turns out that it's quite the challenge to tell one Turritopsis from another. Currently only one scientist, Shin Kubota from Kyoto University, has managed to sustain a group of these jellyfish for a prolonged period of time in captivity; in two years, his colony rebirthed itself 11 times! Wanting to avoid the mistake of confusing one Turritopsis for another, I was glad to read the New York Times Magazine profile of Shin Kubota and the Turritopsis dohrnii - so I could be confident their images were of the right animal!

Incidentally, googling "immortal jellyfish" turns up a lot of strange things, including harebrained anti-aging schemes and vampire fans.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Art shows: Sheep, Space & Bees

I feel so behind in my blogging. Sometimes wrangling a very busy toddler, running a business, making art and running a thousand-member team (thankfully with help from excellent collaborators!) and you know, basic life stuff, like buying, cooking and eating food seems like more than enough to fill my days. Recently, we had a bit of a photoshoot in my studio... and I don't mean with the official family photojournalist (aka my husband). Some of the things I do for things from secret minouette places and for the Toronto Etsy Street Team will soon be getting a little press. Can't wait to share that! All these things keep me very busy, but, I don't want neglect blogging. Let me play catch up.

Year of the Goat show at PROOF Studio Gallery in the Distillery District
Like previous years, I was happy to take part in PROOF Studio Gallery's international print exhibit celebrating the Chinese New Year. This year of course is symbolized by yang, an animal which can be translated as sheep or goat. I've leaned towards 'sheep' and included my Cloned Sheep (the 'Hello Dolly!' one) and Yang: the Sheep or Goat prints.  (I can see them in the photo: Cloned Sheep is the colourful one with the blue mat in the centre and Yang in three over to the right). The show ran from February 18th to March 1 at PROOF and then hit the road, visiting OCADU print department, the Ottawa School of Art,  Concordia University Mouse Print Gallery in Montreal and Muskoka Arts Place.

Local gallery Artisans At Work is hosting
Terra Nova & Friends Exhibit
Show runs through April 2015

Artisans At Work
2071 Danforth Avenue, Toronto
Hours: Mon: Closed; Tues & Wed: 10-6; Thurs & Fri: 10-7; Sat & Sun: 11-5pm
Terra Nova & Friends Exhibit: Mother Nature, Intergalactic & Extraterrestrial Art.
First Friday Reception: April 3, 2015, 7:30-10pm. Music by The Sidewalkers, licensed bar, treats, art, and local artists.

So, I've been framing some of my earth and space science and scientists prints for the show!

My friend (and fellow TEST leader) Christine Pensa is co-curating a show about bees in June with the lovely women of Graven Feather gallery, so I'm planning to show my bee prints there, perhaps including some new ones. See Christine's Art That Moves blog for more information, or to apply to the show.

Coincidentally, Art.Science.Gallery in Austin is also hosting a bee themed show. The Buzz Stops Here (April 18 - May 30) will feature encaustic artworks (which involves painting with melted beeswax) about the science and conservation of bees! The medium really is the message here. I've never tried encaustic, so I won't be participating in their show, but I've recently sent a big package of my bee prints to their shop the Supply Room, to be available during the show.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Women of Science bringing Science to the Public on Twitter

I was really flattered to be included in the io9 article by geophysicist and science writer Mika McKinnon's round up of all sorts of scientific women who are actively communicating science, in all sorts of ways, on twitter! She mentioned my science and history of science linocuts (including the tweet above), and listed roughly 40 others, both well-known and not. Just recently, I was asked by a couple of my mother's friends about twitter: why would one be interested and how can it take up one's time. It was one of those, "Why would you want to read, 'I ate a sandwich for lunch!'?" type questions. I gave a fairly standard reply that if that is in fact the only sort of thing a person tweets, you simply don't follow them; instead, you can follow @NASA. This round-up is a better answer; you can follow - and actively engage with - some of the most creative, knowledgeable and interesting, entertaining people out there. You can stay abreast of your own interests and follow those who work in radically different areas and are excited about topics which you might not even have known existed. If you're looking for great people to follow, and kick-ass women in STEM to boot, this is a good place to start, as well as the other lists she links to.

The #SciArt tweetstorm did put my work in front of new eyeballs and I'm also flattered to have gained new followers. Thank you to all 1258 twitter followers, 667 FB fanpage followers, 960 Etsy followers, 2700 Etsy , 3861 Pinterest followers, and 83 Instagram followers. I had to correct the numbers in the previous sentence twice, in the time it took me to type it (and I type quickly). It was quite amazing to find my work spreading so quickly and get so much feedback that I could barely keep up. If I failed to reply to you, my apologies; please try again. I usually do reply promptly and don't usually feel that popular. ;)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

#SciArt Tweetstorm

A lot of the artwork I make is directly informed and inspired by science, and this is the week for art about science or #SciArt on twitter. Local Scientific American blogger Glendon Mellow (aka @FlyingTrilobite), part of the trio behind the Symbiartic blog (@Symbiartic) about the intersection of art and science, declared a #SciArt tweetstorm. He suggested that those of us who care about scientific illustration and art inspired by science should:

  • tweet at least 3 artworks a day (March 1 through 7) tagged #SciArt
  • retweet at least 5 #SciArt tweets daily
  • or more...

#sciart Twitter NodeXL SNA Map and Report for
Monday, 02 March 2015 at 18:50 UTC from Marc Smith
The resulting storm is in fact raging. #SciArt is trending on twitter and has been for days. In fact, Symbiartic has posted some statistics. Marc Smith of Connected Action produced this figure showing how the 4000 odd tweets and twitter accounts posting #SciArt are interconnected. As you can imagine, I'm all over this, and am in fact the 5th vertice of 2,227 users, ranked by centrality within the first 24 hours. Read more and see the figure in full detail here or by clicking on it.

You can follow some of the other blogs write-ups of the tweetstorm via Symbiartic and find  Nature's post here.

But what you really should do is simply go check the #SciArt hashtag right now! There are some truly wonderful things being shared from that fertile intersection of art and science. There is everything from scientific visualizations, to art quilts inspired by neurology, to microscopic photographs, to science comics, to fine art on scientific themes, to a cupcake periodic table. Do not miss out. It's inspiring!