Institute for Society and Genetics
STUDIO for Creative Inquiry
Exploratorium Museum
Center for PostNatural History
Natalie Settles, artist in a plant lab 


   Amisha Gadani received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon, worked in science education and exhibit development at the Exploratorium Museum in SF, and currently works as artist in resident for this lab and the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics.

   Amisha makes kinetic sculptures, drawings, videos, and interactive wearables that address her fascination with the ocean and the unusual adaptations of it's inhabitants. She is keen to get her hands dirty in the research that inspires her and her artwork and thanks the lab for this sweet gig.

1 animal-inspired artist + 1 evolutionary biology lab for 1 year

Galapagos Islands

My family and I went to the Galapagos this summer!  I feel incredibly fortunate.  I'm not sure I'll ever see anything quite so marvelous.  One of my goals on the trip was to make sketches in the field, and then use them as studies for little watercolor paintings which I would complete in the evenings.  

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of relatively small islands that sit neatly on the equator some 500 miles west of Ecuador [map]. They are quite famous due to Darwin's adventures there and his subsequent theory on evolution and the origin of species.  Central to the development of his thesis were the many morphologically distinct species of finches he examined on each island.  Islands have a particular propensity to harbor unusually high amounts of biodiversity and the Galapagos are no different.  In total, there are about 95 living endemic species on the islands, aka species that do not exist anywhere else in the world.  One of these endemic species is the Galapagos penguin - that's right a penguin that lives on the equator!   


After flying into Ecuador, we took another plane to Baltra which officially landed us in the Galapagos (very exciting!). The first birds I saw were the incredibly large frigate birds with their pointed wings and long forked tails.  The other islands we visited were North Seymour, Isabella, Ferdinandina, Santa Cruz (where we saw the giant tortoises!), and Floreana.  Somehow I didn't expect to see pufferfishes so I was surprised to see them on the first night swimming close to the boat!  How perfect because, as you know I had just finished drawing a good selection of puffers for a paper in lab.  I'm proud to say I even correctly identified one of the puffers as Diodon holocanthus (pictured)!

The image above shows the thick white-ish cloud of tiny stinging jellyfishes we swam into once while snorkeling.  However unpleasant, it was fascinating to see the delicate and detailed forms of these drifting animals. 


UCLA sci|art Nanolab!

[Earlier this year I gave at talk about my art practice and my job in the lab to a group of ucla students.  That professor put me in touch with Adam Steig who asked me to join a small team to teach art and science topics to high school students for two weeks this summer.  It was a wonderful program and I'm happy to have been involved!]

After two weeks of exciting lectures, workshops, and fieldtrips the students in the UCLA sci|art Nanolab summer session have just finished presenting their final projects [images]!  The high school students were given a week to work in groups and present a creative project influenced by a concept they had learned about in the previous week. During that more lecture heavy previous week my co-instructors and I described the history of scientific influences on art (and vice versa) and introduced students to many contemporary scientists and artists influenced by some aspect of each others field.  My lecture, titled "Electro+Mechano+Robo Communications", discussed semaphores, telegraphs, telephones, computers and creative coding, and the history of clocks, robots, machines and electricity.  During the lecture I described the creative craftsmanship and mechanical precision of watchmakers, the professional painting background of Samuel Morse, the performative showmanship of Nikola Tesla, and the insight to turn electricity into music by Léon Theremin.  Laced throughout the talk were contemporary artists influnced by one or more of the topics I discussed, artists including Maywa Denki, Jean Luc Cornec, Ruben Margolin, Gregory Witt, Ian Ingram, and Arthur Gansen.

The other team members were Christina Agapakis PhD: synthetic biologist/science blogger/maker of armpit cheese, Romie Littrell: biomedical engineering grad student/bio hacker, Rita Blaik: material science grad student/abstract urban landscape photographer, Marc Duesseiller PhD: transdisciplinary scholar/ teacher of DIY nanoscience, electronics and robotics workshops, Megan Daadler: performance artist/maker of a sculpture mediated expereince that leaves viewers with a persistent sense of shared identity, John Carpenter: interactive digital artist/designer/arts educator, and Aisen Chacin: artist/maker of an internal mouth piece that when in contact with one's teeth that allows the wearer to hear music through bone conduction.


Squirrel Monkey Progress

I'm working on another set of illustrations for Jessica Alfaro, this time squirrel monkeys! 


Recently Illustrated Figures

“Clade Age and Species Richness are Decoupled Across the Eukaryotic Tree of Life"
S.Robosky, M.Alfaro, G.Slater 



“Cebus Phylogenetic Relationships: A Preliminary Reassessment of the Diversity of the Untufted Capuchin Monkeys"
J.Boubli, J. Alfaro


Kofferfische = Boxfish

Last week I finally worked on the new boxfish website! We (me, Tina Marcroft (grad), and Jeff Modlin (undergrad)) bought a domain name and decided to make the site on wordpress because I'm familiar with it--though I have never designed a wordpress site only edited one.  Tina and Jeff have been researching boxfishes for a few years and have gathered a lot of information that doesn't make it in their papers.  They're hoping that with this site they will be able to share all the information they collect and not just what fits into their research papers.  Also on the new website we will have educational stop motion animations (which I'll be working on), links to other boxfish researchers and relevant news stories, underwater videos of wild boxfish and more!  

Here are some of the boxfish sketches I made as I work out the style of the animation: