more whale questions

From: Pieter Folkens (
Date: Wed Oct 29 2003 - 16:17:33 EST

  • Next message: Pita Admininstrator: "fat whales, fossils, and favorites (fwd)"

    On Oct 29, 2003, at 10:57 AM, Sue Shirley wrote:

    > Pieter,
    > Thank you for you rapid response-you are amazing! Here are a few more
    > questions from the other 1/2 of the fifth graders.
    > From Rebecca and Cassie: Did you go to college to become a scientist
    > or an
    > artist? Have you ever drawn a narwhal?

    I went to college. I studied both the sciences and the arts, but
    focused more on the sciences. I consider myself to be a Science
    Communicator. With a solid foot in the sciences and artistic ability, I
    can bring complex and important elements of science to the public in a
    form that is easier to understand.

    I have drawn several narwhals, including the age and sex classes.

    > From Timmy, Shay, and Peter: How many different species of whales have
    > you
    > drawn?

    I have illustrated all extant species and subspecies as well as many
    prehistoric species. In total I've done well over a hundred 'whale'
    species. You might want to get my book, The National Audubon Society
    Guide to Marine Mammals of the World, to see my illustrations of the
    diversity of marine mammals.

    > From John and Dylan: Are whales smart? Would you please draw a picture
    > of
    > a whale and send it to us?

    Image is attached below.

    Are Primates smart? Whales belong to an order called Cetacea. There are
    around 80 different species of Cetacea. Some are 'smarter' than others.
    Just like Primates. There are many species of primates from lemurs to
    apes (like us). Some are smarter than others.

    > From Michael B.: What is your favorite species of whale to draw and
    > why?
    > What medium do you use for drawing whales?

    I enjoy 'reconstructing' ancient/extinct whales from fossil material.
    It is like bringing these critters back to life, at least in a manner
    that we can appreciate what they looked like in life.

    I use acrylics in a watercolor application technique. I have also used
    gouache for a large batch of illustrations (pinnipeds). I sometimes use
    a variety of color pencils to add texture, and occasionally may use
    color pencils exclusively in a piece. Some of my most recognized images
    were done in pen and ink. I have a few 'species portraits' done in
    graphite (pencil).

    > From Kim and Eva: What is your favorite species of whale and why? Did
    > you
    > go to college to learn about whales?

    see above on the favorite.

    I did not go to college to learn about whales. The whale thing came
    several years after I graduated. Learning about a wide variety of
    things in college, rather than focusing too narrowly, can give a person
    a broader perspective about specific subjects later on. One of the most
    famous marine mammalogists (Dr. Ken Norris) studied desert ecology in
    college, not marine mammals.

    > From Allie and Mariah: What do you know about whales that are extinct?
    > What college did you go to?

    What I know about extinct whales would fill a book. They started in the
    late Paleocene when an unusual climate condition created a very warm
    world that lasted for thousands of years. In that warm environment
    terrestrial mammals could spend much of their time in water without the
    treat of hypothermia. As the climate gradually cooled in the latter
    half of the Eocene, those Paleocene and Early Eocene critters that
    focused on fish for food made gradual physiological adaptations to the
    cooling such as subcutaneous fat (blubber) and morphological
    adaptations to the marine environment such as flippers. By the end of
    the Eocene we have fully aquatic cetaceans. During the past 55 million
    years, a changing climate forced evolution of new forms. Each major
    shift in the climate cause some to go extinct while others flourished
    and adapted.

    I went to San Jose State University and was an adjunct professor at the
    University of California, Santa Cruz, in the Division of Natural
    Sciences for most of the 1980s. I headed up a graduate program in
    Science Communication/Images. Now I have an association with the
    University of California, Berkeley.

    > PS A couple of the boys would love it if you would e-mail one of your
    > drawings of the new beaked whale!



    Pieter Folkens

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