Lecture in Spoerl series discusses communication and conservation

By Ariela Rosa

On Monday Oct. 27, Dan Brinkmeier visited Lawrence to speak about the benefits of combining art and science in a lecture called “Communication Issues, Educational Outreach Programs, and Community Conservation” as part of the Spoerl Lecture Series.

Brinkmeier is an Adjunct Field Museum Research Associate in Zoology, Anthropology, and Environmental Conservation. He earned a BFA in Painting from the University of Illinois and an MS in Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University.

Brinkmeier discussed how “small media” are used to disseminate information and empower rural communities to make positive and sustainable environmental change. Small media include wall murals, info graphics, posters and flyers– pieces that are easy to access and understand.

Brinkmeier described how art is a “universal language,” which can, in many cases, be a more effective way of spreading accurate information than social media.

Referring to the current Ebola epidemic, Brinkmeier said, “It’s one thing to tell someone about a problem that exists. But what you’re interested in is how to show people how to avoid it, what are the symptoms? You can’t do that on social media.”

Brinkmeier described how he helped the Cofán people of South America produce small media addressing conservation issues for fellow tribe members, create land maps and record their histories and mythologies through art.

“Ultimately, we want them to produce material for themselves,” Brinkmeier explained. “[These projects] give them a sense of identity on their landscape and give them the power to fight – so this work is political too.”

Junior Haili Olson, was pleased that Brinkmeier’s goal was to train people to use these communication methods for themselves. Olson said it was interesting to learn about “connecting Biology and art and [using] drawing as a way of communication.”

Brinkmeier hopes that more students participate in combining art and science to help “underserved, rural people living all over the place in Asia, Africa, South America… there isn’t enough good information going to them.”

Milwaukee-Downer graduate Barbara Gray Spoerl and her husband Edward started the Spoerl Series in 1999. The series is a component of the Environmental Studies Symposium, giving students the opportunity to meet with scientists and other officials to discuss current environmental issues.

Students taking the Environmental Studies Symposium will create artwork connected to the idea of conservation, which will be exhibited on Jan. 16, 2015.

The last lecture of the Spoerl Lecture Series will take place on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. in Steitz Hall where Lisa Naughton, Ph. D. will address wolf-human interaction and conflict in Wisconsin.