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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Entomology students fuse art and science

While most classes are taking their finals in small rooms with harsh lighting, the ceramics division of Entomology 1- “Art, Science and the World of Insects”-will be spending the afternoon in the Arboretum.

For their final projects, each student will present a mosaic plaque that they worked on throughout the quarter. Each quarter, Entomology 1 students will contribute to a different art project around the community, relating back to their course work – insects.

“The oak collection is essentially a living museum,” said professor Diane Ullman. “But there’s no real trail. It’s really not a place that’s user friendly and susceptible to profit.”

The plaques give information about individual trees and are part of an Arboretum initiative to make the Shields Oak Grove more accessible to visitors.

Funding for the project came from a grant by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. This grant will cover a new oak discovery trail with plant plaques, educational signs and a cell phone audio tour.

Though there is no set date for when the trail will be completed, the class will present their plaques on Dec. 3. The listening tour should be complete by fall 2010.

Emily Griswold, the assistant director of horticulture for the Arboretum, said they hope that these changes to the Shields Oak Grove will bring in more visitors as well as enhance the learning experience.

Visitors of the Arboretum are not the only ones who will benefit from this project.

“Installation art is usually a privilege reserved for professional artists,” said Dina Schneider, sophomore animal science major. “And since few of the students enrolled in Entomology 1 have plans to pursue a career in the arts, this is an amazing opportunity for all of us.”

In addition, some students said they felt working on the project was a learning opportunity in itself.

“As a science major, I was unsure at first about what an art-science fusion class would entail,” Schneider said. “But I’ve always loved working hands-on with various artistic media. To have a class that allowed me to express myself creatively, while exploring connections between two [different] subject matters, has been an amazing experience.”

Others said the art-fusion method felt more productive than that used in the traditional class structure.

“I like the idea of having a project that serves as both a teaching tool for the students and stays on campus to serve a function,” said Jacqueline Schock, first-year undeclared. “It seems much more efficient than creating ceramics projects for individual purposes – ones that serve only to gather dust on a shelf.”

It is this sediment that has led to the success of the program, said Ullman.

“They’re making something and putting something into the environment, and they can come back [to show] their grandchildren,” Ullman said. “There is a real sense of place that comes from working on these types of projects.”

Entomology professors Ullman and Donna Billick receive many requests for projects for their classes to participate in. Though they change every quarter, they expect to be working in the Arboretum for a few more years.

They most recently created a mural titled “Oak Family Tree” on the wall of a public restroom, located near the gazebo. This artwork garnered attention when a photograph of the piece was published as a cover for the Proceedings of the Nation Academy of Sciences.

In addition, the spring 2009 project- a ceramic portrait of Charles Darwin- was installed in Storer Hall at the end of October.

“The plaques that our class has created will create a new degree of interest that a simple text description on a sign could not,” Schneider said.

“[They] are going to be in the Arboretum for decades, so it’s a lasting way I can give back to the university.”

BECKY PETERSON can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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