My name is Bethann Garramon Merkle, and I am an artist and science communicator. I am a writer and illustrator passionate about ecology and ecosystems. I find storytelling a fascinating portal for communicating about important topics such as biodiversity, landscape conservation, and human-wildlife interactions. To that end, I engage in a range of research, creative scholarship, art making, and communication and engagement activities. For my day job, I am an Associate Professor of Practice in science communication and director of the UW Science Communication Initiative at the University of Wyoming.
“Ecologically True Story”TM projects investigate the value of fully integrating the arts in communicating ecology/ecological research stories.
A body of research and a field of practice point to the importance of science communication and engagement, but much of this work is contingent upon the assumption that an audience is at least somewhat interested in science/ecology topics.
“Ecologically True Story”TM projects assume only that everyone loves a familiar story. Herein lays a striking opportunity to engage with audiences that might otherwise not consider pressing science/ecology topics like biodiversity and science literacy. Indeed, publications, exhibits, and presentations on this material have the potential to deeply engage broad audiences in complex ecological themes.
I aim to create a seamless blend of art and writing which honors and builds upon the legacies of artist-scientists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, John James Audubon, Maria Sybilla Merian, and Lewis and Clark. Furthermore, I am inspired by contemporary greats in ecology, such as E.O. Wilson and Jonathan Kingdon, who advocate adamantly for drawing in ecological studies. I am also informed by a body of modern research documenting the efficacy of stories and drawing for learning about science and nature.
Research and Creative Scholarship
I am currently working on several research and creative scholarship projects. Click here for more details about some of these projects or visit my main website: commnatural.com.
- I have worked for over nearly two decades as a science communicator, educator, naturalist, illustrator, and journalist/writer. I am occasionally available as a consultant and freelancer. See my consulting website for details.
- My professional affiliations include:
- Co-founder of the Meteor SciComm podcast about science communication with impact
- Co-founder of the UW Science Communication Initiative (2018; director since 2018)
- Co-founder of the Ecological Society of America’s Science Communication Section (webmaster 2014-present, secretary 2015-2016, chair-elect 2016-2017, chair 2017-2018, past chair 2018-2019).
- Co-chair of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators‘ Drawing in Science Education Toolkit development committee (2014-present).
- Teaching Mentor for the University of Wyoming Science Initiative’s Learning Actively Teaching Fellowship Program (2016-2017)
- University of Wyoming MFA Creative Writing Program (MFA, nonfiction, 2017)
- Memberships: Ecological Society of America, Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, National Association of Science Writers, Urban Sketchers International
- My curriculum vitae is available online here.