UW News

January 15, 2004

Graphic artist helps scientists tell their story

An exhibit currently in the lobby of the Fisheries Sciences Building represents a unique collaboration between a group of scientists and a young graphic designer. Capturing an Elusive Network is described as “a visual exhibition that explores information design and digital media as a means of communicating the dynamic complexities of a marine ecosystem.”

In other words, Fisheries Professor Bob Francis and his team were looking for a better way to communicate their research and Amity Femia, a former graduate student in Visual Communication Design, helped them do it.

It all started when Femia, who graduated last June, was looking for a thesis project. “I had a lot of friends who were involved in the natural sciences, and through them I met Bob,” she said.

Francis was looking at the problem of how fisheries and the natural environment interact, and he wanted to make his work as accessible as possible to policy makers. Femia began working with him, eventually getting approval to make the final product her thesis project.

“I met with the scientists frequently and really became immersed in what they were doing,” she said.

The scientists, Femia explained, generally produced diagrams to illustrate concepts from their research — the migration routes of particular fish, for example. What she did was to turn those diagrams into digital, interactive displays. This allows the viewer to click on a particular season and watch the direction of the fish migration change. The same is true for other aspects of the work — the flow of ocean currents, for example.

The exhibit has a panel that houses a computer screen in self-playing mode, allowing the viewer to see all the different displays Femia prepared. There are also panels that explain the collaboration between Femia and the scientists.

Femia’s work was first displayed last June at the Henry Art Gallery, as part of the annual MFA exhibit. But Francis wanted to reach more people in the scientific community by having the display in fisheries. Femia has continued working on contract with the University, thanks to a grant from Washington Sea Grant.

The display will be in the Fisheries Sciences Building through winter quarter.