Using Science Illustration to Communicate Vegetation Change in South-Central and Arctic Alaska


Julia Ditto

This project will investigate various illustration techniques to produce figures for three research projects on vegetation change in Alaska: The estimation of shrub biomass with NASA Goddard’s G-LiHT remote sensing data, NASA Ames’ greening and browning vegetation research using MODIS pixels, and a NSF project on the advancement of tree line. These figures will be an essential tool for communicating project methods, results, and implications. Science illustration is a tool that has been used for centuries. The use of visual representations improves communication and can make scientific research more impactful to the reader, which is critical if scientists want their audience to understand the main message, or even take action as a result of scientific findings. With a society that capitalizes on denying climate change, ways of facilitating the communication and understanding of science should not be overlooked. This project seeks to display the magnitude of climate-related vegetation change that is occurring across Alaska. By facilitating the communication of this research, this project addresses NASA’s strategic objective for Earth science, which is to advance knowledge of Earth as a system to meet the challenges of environmental change. More specifically, this proposal aligns with the purpose of the Earth Science Program, which seeks to develop a scientific understanding of Earth’s system and its response to natural or human-induced changes. This project benefits my STEM experience by involving scientific inquiry, computer programs (R, Adobe Illustrator, ArcPro), and statistical analysis. This project is relevant to the state of Alaska by increasing knowledge of native ecosystems and how they are impacted by climate change.


Name: Julia Ditto, Undergraduate Student

Institution: Alaska Pacific University

Major: Marine & Environmental Science

Mentor: Roman Dial,

Award: Apprenticeship

Funding Period: 2020 to 2021