Since a very young age I have been interested in drawing and painting, particularly plants and animals. In 2010, I enrolled in a class instructed by Dr. Eric Wild and Justin Sipiorski on biological illustration. During the course I used a variety of media including pen and ink, graphite, and colored pencil to illustrate natural history specimens and biological processes. This course allowed me to explore my creative side within a scientific framework and has led to a natural marriage between my art and research endeavors.
During field work I often encounter small mammal species that are cryptic and difficult to distinguish. Moreover, most species are cautious and move quickly, making photography a difficult media to capture images that demonstrate salient features of a species. Color illustration offers an alternative means to produce images, allowing me to visually emphasize pelage color and morphological features that typify a species. Additionally, I can standardize body orientation, making rapid comparison between species easy.
Illustrations are excellent supplements to teaching field identification of live animals. My current work has focused on illustrating small mammal species that I have captured during field work. Using a combination of water color pencils, soft colored pencils, and hard colored pencils, I work from photos and study skins to create images that represent a typical individual. Multiple layers of colored pencils and blending allows me to create the perception of depth in the pelage
- Figures 6 and 7 in: Stephens, R. B., A. P. Ouimette, E. A. Hobbie, and R. J. Rowe. in press. Reevaluating trophic discrimination factors (∆δ13C and ∆δ15N) for diet reconstruction. Ecological Monographs
- Figures 2, 3, 4, and 5 in: Moore, N. B., R. B. Stephens, and R. J. Rowe. in press. Nutritional and environmental factors influence small mammal seed selection in Northeastern forests. Ecosphere
- Figure 1 in: Stephens, R. B., S. D. Frey, A. W. D’Amato, and R. J. Rowe. 2021. Functional, temporal, and spatial complementarity in mammal-fungal spore networks enhances mycorrhizal dispersal following forest harvesting. Functional Ecology 35:2072-2083.
- Figure 1 in: Stephens, R. B. and R. J. Rowe. 2020. The underappreciated role of rodent generalists in fungal spore-dispersal networks. Ecology 101:e02972.
- Figure 4 in: Hope, A. G., R. B. Stephens, S. D. Mueller, V.L V. Tkach, J. R. Demboski. 2020. Speciation of North American pygmy shrews (Eulipotyphla: Soricidae) supports spatial but not temporal congruence of diversification among boreal species. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 129:41-60.
- Figure 2 in: Woodman, N. and R. B. Stephens. 2010. At the foot of the shrew: manus morphology distinguishes closely-related Cryptotis goodwini and Cryptotis griseoventris (Mammalia, Soricidae) in Central America. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 99:118-134. (PDF)
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 2013. Wisconsin Woodland Jumping Mouse Species Guidance. Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin. PUB-ER-690. (PDF)