Living the Wildlife with @illresearch

This month we bring awareness to Endangered Species Day.

Leila Thompson of Illustrated Research has taken an even bigger step and has been highlighting a new endangered species every day on her Instagram. Not only is she providing us all with invaluable information about these species, but also celebrating the artists that bring them to life through artwork. Let's dive into how she got started with #SciArt.

Leila Thompson, Founder of Illustrated Research

Leila Thompson is a third year student and the University of Miami studying Ecosystem Science and Policy. Born and raised in Virginia, she moved down to Florida for college and has absolutely fallen in love with all the nature and wildlife that surrounds Miami. Seeing problems in the way current research was communicated and artists with interests in science, but no place to express it, Leila wants to help change the way science is seen as well as provide a platform for artists to grow their love for science. She has a love for both science and art and has turned her passion into a new magazine and media production company called Illustrated Research which brings together artists and scientists through collaboration.

In recent years, there's been a push for an emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) education. However, art and science have been linked for centuries. What motivated you to bring these two disciplines together to create Illustrated Research?

I’ve always had a love for both art and science, when I was little I used to color in coloring books like a mad woman and when my dad asked me why I was coloring all the time I told him, “I just have to”. Similarly, growing up, my brother and I were always begging my parents to take us to different creeks around the house so we could look at the water bugs and minnows and put our hands in the mud. As I grew older I always stuck to science and art but separately, taking art classes all throughout high school and eventually majoring in a scientific field in college. It wasn’t until I took an ecocinema class in my second year of college that I was first introduced to the idea of scientific and environmental communication, and finally I had found a place where I could combine both my love for art and science; thus Illustrated Research was born.

The first issue of the magazine dropped in December. In a time where everything is digital, what made you decide to give a print option?

For both people that create art and those that read research, there’s is nothing quite like having the art or the article in front of you, in your hands. This really showed through with a lot of the art in our first issue; the images on screens, I feel, often don’t do the art true justice so a print issue was something I felt was necessary, even if it only ever went to a small audience. On the other hand, understanding that we live in a digital age, I decided Illustrated Research’s main form would be the instagram account, where we post often featuring artists work and cover a variety of research that’s being done. We also have a website that is updated frequently, a newsletter, a patreon, blog, and a podcast and youtube channel in the works


It's really refreshing to see handmade artwork in contrast to the beautiful, yet common photographs used to accompany scientific research. What are some of the topics that will be brought to life in future issues?

I completely agree! For so long, the pictures and images found in research have been taken without the consideration of basic art and design principles so giving those that are artistically inclined an opportunity to change the way research is literally seen, I think, is very important and something I’m finding more and more, resonates with a lot of people. So far in 2019 we've had a lot of fun things planned, including an all pink issue for February. For women’s appreciation month in March we will be partnered female researchers with female artists, and further down the line we're having a month covering pollen, the arctic, and more!

In the production of each magazine I'm sure you have to be in contact with many science illustrators. For people who may want to showcase their work for a larger audience, where might you suggest they go online or in person to get more exposure?

We feature a lot of artists and are always looking for more to contribute, we want to make Illustrated Research as inclusive and accessible as possible so if someone would like to contribute or be featured, they can DM us on Instagram or email us:

I highly suggest artists finding local zine fairs, craft shows, and exhibitions in their local area, as an artist myself, these events have been amazing for exposure, meeting like-minded people in my area, and growing a larger, and more true following online because the followers you gain from those events are often people you will see again. Also, someone coming to an event, again, will be able to see your work in person, hold it, pick it up, see the texture and detail that you can’t always get from a screen. I also highly suggest the use of hashtags on Instagram, it can be a great way for people to find you and for you to find other people who are interested in the same topics.

When selecting who you will work with, what are some of the qualities you look for?

At this point, we’ve been lucky enough that we haven’t turned anyone away, all of the artists that have reached out to us have been amazing. The main criteria for our content is that a post covers one recent scientific paper, think of them as visual abstracts, or for our series Species Sunday, that is illustrates one endangered species, plant or animal. As long as the work fits within that criteria we will say yes to almost anything and anyone who’s willing to contribute.

Everybody has goals right? Where do you Illustrated Research in the next few years?

In the next few years, I would love to grow Illustrated Research so that it is all self-sufficient, right now a lot of the costs are coming out of pocket. I would also love to go to a number of science conventions, as well as grow the podcast to a weekly, or bi-weekly show highlighting scientists and their research as well as artists and scientific illustrators around the world. Lastly, in a few years, I would love to be in position to help other scientific illustrators and artists publish their art and work in the form of zines, books, comics, etc.

Do you offer any other services like consultation or graphic design?

Yes we do, if someone is interested they can contact us via our email or a DM on Instagram, and if there is an artist that we feature that someone is interested in working with, we are more than happy to connect clients with them, and we always tag and credit artists fully in each post we share so that people can find their accounts.

If you want to get the latest updates from @illrearch be sure to follow them on Instagram, subscribe to their newsletter on their website, and support and help make Illustrated Research even better on their Patreon page!

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