Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


Integrating Fine Art and Science to Better Understand the South Dakota Badlands

Event Name/Location

2010 GSA Annual Meeting, Denver, Colorado, October 31 - November 3, 2010

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



For over a decade, the Badlands Working Group (BWG) of Slippery Rock University (SRU) has been training undergraduate geology and geography students through guided research on Holocene landscape development in Badlands National Park, SD. In 2005, upon reviewing typically dismal results from student field notebooks, faculty of the BWG re-examined the use of scientific illustration in field exercises. Introductory students asked to sketch Badlands landscapes consistently failed to produce accurate illustrations and often failed to recognize obvious elements of the landscape, including the stepped lower prairie, escarpment, and upper prairie. In response to this pedagogical challenge, in 2006 BWG added SRU Art Department faculty, Katherine Mickle, and expanded its educational and scientific mission to include artistic considerations of light, dimension, proportion, perspective, and the conveyance of idea.

Collaboration between artists and scientists in field studies has fallen out of fashion in recent years, but historically includes such famous teams as Hayden and Moran, and Powell, Moran and Holmes from exploration of the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. Addition of an artist to the BWG faculty not only improved student sketches, it improved students’ ability to analyze and understand the landscape and its processes. Furthermore, the art and science collaborative enriched the faculty research experience, producing results that combined scientific understanding of the Badlands landscape with captured artistic impressions. Artistic media produced by the BWG have expanded from sketches to include sculpture, paintings, printmaking, fibers and video. BWG faculty and students have presented Badlands-inspired artwork at conferences, symposia, and exhibitions in addition to scientific papers. This presentation will include a brief history of the tradition of scientific and artistic collaboration, and a pedagogical review. BWG pedagogical strategies are largely experiential and cooperative, including peer mentoring with undergraduate students. Returning students and alumni mentor novices, focusing inquiry, enhancing group communication, and diffusing stressors. The presentation also will include examples of artwork from faculty and students of the working group.


© Copyright 2010 The Geological Society of America (GSA), all rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to the author(s) of this abstract to reproduce and distribute it freely, for noncommercial purposes. Permission is hereby granted to any individual scientist to download a single copy of this electronic file and reproduce up to 20 paper copies for noncommercial purposes advancing science and education, including classroom use, providing all reproductions include the complete content shown here, including the author information. All other forms of reproduction and/or transmittal are prohibited without written permission from GSA Copyright Permissions.

Additional Comments

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 42, No. 5, p.663



Find in your library