Sketchbook Snapshot: Tortoises & Hares

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Sketching Antelope Jackrabbits and Black-tailed Jackrabbits – yes jackrabbits = hares – at the U of A Natural History Museum. (c) BGMerkle, 2016

As part of my MFA thesis, I’m working on an art-science project about tortoises and hares and the ecosystems where the two coexist: “The Ecologically True Story of the Tortoise and the Hare.”
One of those places just happens to be the Sonoran Desert, just south of where my husband grew up. So, while we were in Arizona over the holidays, I headed to that tortoise-and-hare desert.
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Desert tortoise carapace – photo of a live tortoise kept as a “pet” through the Arizona Game & Fish-approved desert tortoise adoption program. (c) BGMerkle, 2016

I was fortunate to connect with the Phoenix Herpetological Society, which manages a sanctuary with lots of tortoises, a hare researcher studying the little-known Antelope jackrabbit – yes jackrabbits are technically hares! – some friendly folks who (legally) keep desert tortoises as pets, and the curator of the University of Arizona Natural History Museum.

Between all these contacts, I had great opportunities to sketch live tortoises and hare specimens, ask lots of questions, and pick up recommendations for more people to contact and more books and articles to read.
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Same tortoise as the carapace pictured above. (c) BGMerkle, 2016

If you’re interested, so far two of my favorite books about these species are a pair of monographs (pleasantly accessible and fun reading!): Hare by Simon Carnell and Tortoise by Peter Young. Both are fascinating cultural, ecological, and artistic histories of popular but generally not-well-known animals.

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