Water and Norway: the Nordic Hydrology Conference in Bergen

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I had the absolute privilege of being able to do graphic recording at a conference on hydrology last week. It touched on a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to): sustainable urban hydrological solutions; groundwater; floods; land-atmosphere interactions; hydrological processes and modelling; climate services; and hydropower. There was a heavy emphasis on urban adaptation and learning to reallocate, trap and conserve, and divert water as necessary in a future influenced by climate change.

I covered three topic sessions with my recordings: (1) Surface water, groundwater and blue-green solutions in urban areas, (2) Groundwater, and (3) Environmental flows, water quality and sediments, as well as talks from the five keynote speakers.

There was a wonderful tour of an old archaeological site in Bergen, called "Bryggen": this is what remains of the city's (wooden) old town, and which has survived or been rebuilt following the city's numerous fires. It has been built on top of reclaimed land - a substrate made of pallets of wood and other miscellany assembled together following each fire (especially a large one in 1702), and sunk into the water offshore to build up new land. This wood and miscellany would have represented daily life, snippets that provide a glimpse into past centuries. It is an archaeological treasure trove that is preserved by the (fresh) groundwater it is immersed in. Too much briney seawater? it can degrade the archaeological site. Exposure to air? The site can oxidize and degrade. So a complex system of swales and rain gardens has been built around the archaeological site to maximize the infiltration of rainwater into the ground, thus keeping the groundwater level high enough to protect it. Thus the archaeology is preserved for future archaeologists to exhume when resources and technologies allow for it to be sufficiently preserved above-water as well. A really cool example of the ways that monitoring and managing urban water flows can help to protect cultural heritage, as well.

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The one topic that felt largely absent at the conference was ecohydrology (though of course this may have been more present in some of the sessions I didn't attend), the study of how ecosystems and organisms react to changes in water flow / temperature / etc. What are the impacts of climate change on ecosystems? What are the impacts of building a hydropower plant on ecosystems? One keynote speaker (Lee Brown) did address this with a talk on studies he and others have conducted in the UK Uplands and in the Alps to better understand the impacts of different flow regimes, and seasonal loss of flow: their findings indicated a wide range of ecological responses, however (measured using macro-invertebrates as indicators), which suggests that there is still a lot to be studied to understand the extent of the impacts. One thing is certain, though: building hydropower, as clean as it may be on a global scale, does have local impacts, and these need to be studied and addressed with great care and awareness.

All in all, though, the conference was fascinating, and a brilliant opportunity to dive deeper into the world of hydrology!

Skin Microbiomes and Magazine Publications

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It's kind of a crazy exciting feeling to open up the mailbox and see something you drew in there. This is an illustration I made to accompany a press release from my university earlier this year, which described current research being conducted on bacterial communities on the skin, and how these change with neurodermitis (eczema). It was so much fun to read the researchers' findings, see how these bacterial communities change and how it is being researched, and to produce diagrams to communicate it.

Now, months later, the research is being covered in this issue of Wirtschaftsmagazin for dermatologists, and I'm totally thrilled to have my pictures included - not just inside the magazine accompanying the article, but on the cover! Huge thanks to Katharina Thier, the author (who I actually met last year at a several-day seminar on visual science communication), who spotted my work in the press release, and gave me the opportunity to have it included in the magazine. If you read German, find her article here!

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Swedish retreats

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Working holidays - more of these, please! I spent a glorious week up in Västra Götaland, Sweden, with my housemate at her family's summer house there. A week of soaking in the beautiful weather of this crazy hot summer, hopping in the lake whenever it got too hot, hopping in the sauna in the evenings if it ever got chilly, reclining amongst the great granite outcrops that make up this beautiful landscape, picking berries... yeah, if I didn't have to go to meetings, and if I could have relocated all my art supplies to Sweden for the summer, you had better believe I would have just stayed there!

Almost as much fun as the week at the summer house was getting there and back. My housemate and I took our bikes up overnight on the Kiel-Göteborg ferry, hopped on a train (bikes still in tow), and cycled the last 20 km across the (very hilly!) landscape up to the summer house. When I ended up having to come back to Kiel earlier than planned due to a new commission and some new deadlines that I couldn't turn down, I took a different (and equally exciting!) route back: I cycled 50 km north into Norway to catch a long-distance bus back down into Sweden as far as Malmö, where I got a ferry back down to Travemünde, Germany. I love how manageable this kind of travel is here! If you're willing to spend the time getting from Point A to Point B, and can get some work done while in transit, it is one hundred percent worth the adventure.

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 A seagull enjoying the view of the Kiel Förde on the Kiel-Göteborg ferry, before heading out into the open Baltic.

A seagull enjoying the view of the Kiel Förde on the Kiel-Göteborg ferry, before heading out into the open Baltic.

 Me getting ready to get onto the ferry back down to Travemünde from Malmö - they gave me a high-vis jacket so that I could safely cycle onto the ferry along with the cars and trucks!

Me getting ready to get onto the ferry back down to Travemünde from Malmö - they gave me a high-vis jacket so that I could safely cycle onto the ferry along with the cars and trucks!

Illustration Weekend

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This past weekend I took a train back up to Denmark to spend three days collaborating with other illustrators for an anthology. It was spontaneous and open and full of beautiful ideas and work, and I found myself so excited to be re-immersed in an artists' environment. 

We had almost no restrictions to the anthology, beyond a colour palette and the prompt word "Wunderkammer" (cabinet of curiosities). I thought about the things I collect, stones, and the beautiful elongated shape of the ones I collected while visiting Lake Baikal, in Russia. They are eroded by the tides of the lake (Baikal, with 20% of the world's fresh water, is large enough to have tides, unlike smaller lakes!), and have these entrancingly long oblong shapes. Thus this short comic, on the collecting of stones.

I made the following two images as well, inspired by some of the objects other participants brought in or described. I didn't ultimately use them for my final submission to the anthology, but perhaps they'll show up in future work!

Campground mice, beer festivals, and bus doodles

Over the weekend I went to the Mikkeller Beer Celebration in Copenhagen (You may recall that I made a comic about it, which you can read here), and stayed at a campground. Since I do a daily comic, I was intending to finish it ahead of time for those days, so that I could enjoy my beer and my tent with complete peace of mind. But of course, humans make loads of fancy plans and god guffaws, or however the saying goes, and I left Viborg having completely failed to draw any mice.

BUT buses were made for catching up on all the pencil sketches you failed to do before getting on them, and campgrounds were made for sitting at picnic tables and inking comics at dawn, and I would like to present the following three issues of The Mouse Tales as an example of what is still manageable on the go.

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 Read more on Instagram  @themousetales !

Read more on Instagram @themousetales!

Meanwhile the beer festival was amazing and camping was fantastic. It rained a bit overnight, so I had to do some air-drying of my tent in the sun the next day before I could pack it up - but waiting for the tent to dry provided a perfect opportunity for inking some campground comics!

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And some bus doodles. Is it kosher for people to put their feet up on the window of the bus?!?

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The Snow Queen: illustrations

A few weeks ago we had a two-week book illustration course from Alexis Deacon, during which we had the opportunity to illustrate old stories from Hans Christian Andersen. As a brief aside, Hans Christian Andersen is far from my favourite author. His stories are grim and full of violence against women, who are usually either old hideous witches to be killed, or passive and compliant young ladies to be kidnapped and wed. But after reading through quite a few of his stories (and getting properly riled up while doing so), I finally got to the Snow Queen, and let me tell you, this story has some fantastic female characters! So much so that I am willing to put Hans Christian Andersen back in my good books.

You can find the full story here. But here's a brief summary: a mirror that reflects only ugliness gets broken, and its shards are scattered across the world. In some cases they become lodged in people's hearts, and these people become embittered and angry. One of the people who is poisoned with a shard of the mirror is a little boy named Kay, best friend and neighbour to a girl called Gerda. Kay becomes cruel and distant, and one day when he's out sledding, he ties his sled to a fancy sleigh and is guided away from the city. The sleigh's driver is the snow queen, and she takes Kay with her to her home in the north. And that's the last we see of Kay until the end of the story, because guess what - this story is all about Gerda and her badass journey to go and get Kay back! She meets all kinds of fantastic characters along the way, including a well-intentioned but rather selfishly maternal witch who just tries to keep her, a lovely romantic crow couple who help smuggle her into a castle, a prince & princess who help set her on the right path to go north, a very hyper and rather crazy robber girl who gives her a reindeer to ride north, and a couple of independent ladies living on their own in cabins in the far north. Notice anything about the majority of these characters? They're female, they have great, personality-filled roles, and they all work together to help Gerda get where she's going. And of course Kay gets rescued, because Gerda and these ladies are awesome.

Okay, that summary wasn't actually brief. Sorry. But Gerda is officially my favourite Hans Christian Andersen character by a long shot, and in the end I had a great time doing these illustrations. I chose to illustrate Gerda, the women she meets along the way, and the Snow Queen herself. Oh, and Kay gets an appearance as well.