Jill Pelto artwork

Most scientists communicate data through reports, charts, and graphs. But Jill Pelto also uses paint and canvas.

Pelto is a graduate student at the University of Maine. She grew up immersed in nature and always loved to make art. So when she began studying earth sciences, she started looking for ways to unite her two passions.

Pelto: “I thought, I know I have to make environmental art and I have to make art that is sending a message to more people.”

Though early in her research career, Pelto has already worked in the Falkland Islands, the dry valleys of Antarctica, and the mountain glaciers of Washington.

In the process, she’s witnessed the impacts of climate change firsthand, and now she’s sharing what she’s learned through art.

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In her work, Pelto incorporates climate data into images of the natural world. For example, in one painting, a graph plotting global temperatures doubles as a tree line ravaged by wildfire. In another, salmon attempt to swim along a jagged line that charts the species’ declining population.

Pelto: “I’m trying to get people to pay attention and be informed about what’s going on, but also further inspire them to take action.”

And she’s showing that a paintbrush can be a powerful teaching tool.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Artwork image: Jill Pelto’s “Proxies for the Past.”

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is Editor of Yale Climate Connections. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as Assistant Director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission on Air Quality,...