Grad student’s art featured on cover of annual climate report compiled by NOAA – J. Pelto

Art created by University of Maine graduate student Jill Pelto is featured on the cover of an international climate report compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Pelto’s environmental artwork appears on the front and back of the State of the Climate in 2015, an international, peer-reviewed publication released each summer as a supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The annual summary of the global climate is compiled by NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate at the National Centers for Environmental Information and is based on contributions from scientists from around the world, according to the AMS.

“Habitat Degradation: Deforestation” uses data showing the decline in rainforest area from 1970 to 2010. “These lush ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes, and with them, millions of beautiful species,” artist Jill Pelto says. “I’m quite certain that anyone would agree that a tiger is a magnificent creature, yet how many people realize that they are critically endangered? For this series I chose to separate the animals from their habitat, because that is ultimately what we are doing. The tiger is trapped outside the forest, cornered. He is defensive and angry that we are sealing his fate.”

The report provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice and in space.

The front cover features Pelto’s piece, “Landscape of Change,” which uses data about sea level rise, glacier volume decline, higher global temperatures, and the increasing use of fossil fuels. The data lines compose a landscape shaped by the changing climate, “a world in which we are now living,” according to Pelto.

“Salmon Population Decline” is on the back of the report and uses population data about the Coho species in the Puget Sound, Washington, to depict the struggle the population is facing as their spawning habitat declines.

Pelto graduated from UMaine in December with a double major in Earth science and studio art, as well as honors. In the fall, she will return to UMaine to pursue a master’s degree in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences.

During graduate school, she plans to work with geology professor Brenda Hall on a paleoclimate research project that will include five weeks in the Antarctic.

“I am looking forward to the experience of working on an intensive research project and paper for my master’s. I know it will be a really rewarding and challenging two years,” Pelto says.

This summer, Pelto participated in the Rozalia Project, a program that protects and cleans the ocean using technology, innovation, solutions-based research and engaging STEM programs. She spent a week onboard the project’s 60-foot sailing research vessel; cleaning the ocean and educating others about the work.

For the eighth consecutive year, she also spent part of her summer working with the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project. The program is led by her father, a professor of environmental science at Nichols College in Massachusetts.

“This is a project my father, Dr. Mauri Pelto, started — and still runs — when he was working on his Ph.D. at UMaine in the ’80s,” she says. “It is a long-term monitoring project of a series of glaciers in the North Cascades in Washington state.”

In the past year, reports about Pelto and her artwork have been published by local and national news organizations, including Climate Central, GlacierHub, onEarth, Public Radio International (PRI), Co.Design, PBS NewsHour and Bangor Daily News. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio also shared Pelto’s art on his official Instagram account, which focuses on climate issues. Most recently she was featured in National Geographic as part of the series, “20 Under 30: The Next Generation of National Park Leaders.”

Pelto says now that she has professionally begun an art career, she plans to work as an artist for the rest of her life.

“I will always be involved in the sciences, but I don’t yet know the degree to which my work will entail being a research scientist or a scientist communicating art,” she says.

Pelto’s artwork also was featured on the cover of the 2015 issue of MINERVA, a publication of the UMaine Honors College. An article about Pelto and her artwork was included in the annual magazine that highlights current students, faculty, alumni and friends of the college.

More of Pelto’s art can be seen on her website.