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A Novel Future
National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS)
Artist in Residence Showcase 2023

Santa Barbara, California - September 2023


Synthesis, at its core, is re-interpreting existing data for new knowledge. What sets NCEAS apart from other research centers is its core ethos of synthesis. Science is no longer siloed, and influential work is done to not only sort out gray areas, but to deep dive into them.


My two-part mural at NCEAS reflects the importance, potency, and necessity of synthesis in the progress of our world. The visuals broadly depict ecological transformations of both Santa Barbara’s ocean and mountain landscapes. Specific local phenomena, such as the effect of keystone species within coastal waters, or the effects of prescribed burns in the chaparral, are on view as narratives from existing to future conditions. To emphasize NCEAS's interdisciplinary approach, recognizable symbolism is overlaid within these landscapes. These “synthesis symbols'' include transformational motifs in dialogue with the working groups who gather at NCEAS to holistically approach some of our most complex issues. 



The flow of the fluorescent symbolism throughout both of the pieces is an adaptation of Sam Kaner’s Diamond Model of Participation, with the X-axis being “time” and the Y-axis being “diversity of ideas.” The charts in the mural illustrate an introduction of diverse ideas, an early conclusion, a chaotic “groan zone,” and eventually a solution. The symbols trickle in at the beginning of the first wall, begin to coalesce, and eventually become bigger, more recognizable shapes on the second wall. The solution is the most discernible symbol in the piece — a butterfly. The butterfly is a motif of transformation, and the logo of NCEAS. 

The symbols themselves are inspired by ice wedge polygon data collected by the Arctic Data Center, and Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) geologic patterns. 


OCEAN: Overfished, warm waters → Thriving kelp forest, integrated man-made structures  

Past -- Present 
Great White Shark 
Purple Sea Urchin

Present -- Future
Sea Otter [keystone species]
Giant Kelp 
California Spiny Lobster 
California Sheephead
Giant Spined Sea Star 

MOUNTAIN: Wildfires, unbalanced ecosystem → Prescribed burns, diverse oakland 

Present -- Future
Interior Live Oak + Acorns [keystone species]
Great Horned Owl
Spotted Humboldt’s Lily 
California Poppy 
Common Lichen 



NCEAS welcomes two new artists in residence this summer

UC Santa Barbara Residency Merges Art and Science

Artist residency merges hands-on creativity and cutting-edge science

NCEAS Presents: 2023 Artists in Residence Exhibition

Artists in residency bring color and community to NCEAS


By translating synthesis visually, the murals aim to inspire and accelerate the creative and collaborative process. As interdisciplinary groups filter in and out of NCEAS, the paintings are in quiet conversation with their process — providing an alternative angle as they chat with their colleagues over coffee, for example. For outsiders, this may help them understand NCEAS’s mission - simplifying and making it more accessible. 


In our multifaceted world, a multi-disciplinary approach is necessary.  Synthesis offers an answer to the question of how we can, in balance with nature, move into the future sustainably.

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