When ecology meets art, you get a dating site for trees
by Anne Brice, Berkeley News
November 19, 2021
In 2015, as a Ph.D. student at UC Santa Cruz, Juniper Harrower was planning to go back to Costa Rica, where she’d been working in the cloud forests to study patterns of forest regeneration. But then she learned something — something heart-wrenching — that would change the path of her research.
“Scientists had just found out that Joshua trees were really impacted by climate change and could be gone from the National Park within 100 years,” said Harrower. “When I read that, it was such a gut punch.”
Harrower grew up in Joshua Tree National Park — a vast, protected area in Southern California, home to thousands of twisted, spiky Joshua trees. And hearing that the iconic species was in jeopardy, Harrower felt she had to do something.
“It started this whole trajectory of thinking about what species were really crucial for Joshua trees and how those interactions might change with the changing climate,” she said.
Berkeley News spoke with Harrower, now a first-year master’s student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Art Practice, about the power of art and science to spur social change and why she started a dating site for Joshua trees.
Berkeley News: You got your Ph.D. in environmental studies with a focus in ecoart from UC Santa Cruz in 2019, and now, you’re a first-year master’s student in the Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley. What brought you to Berkeley?
Juniper Harrower: My background is in ecology, and I’ve spent the last eight years working as an environmental artist. I got my bachelor’s degree in plant biology from Berkeley, where I talked my way into some art classes. I was kind of jumping between science research and having a really visible art practice. I continued to have a very present art practice at UC Santa Cruz, where I created and still teach science art classes. I left Santa Cruz with a Ph.D. in environmental studies, but madly, madly in love with art.
At Berkeley, I’m thinking about how an arts practice that is connected to ecological research can impact social change.
Berkeley has such an incredible art department. There’s a very strong post-colonialist framework that people are working from, and I’m looking forward to having those conversations and dismantling some of my science background. To have the incredible privilege of making art for two years with the support of an art practice committee is such a dream.
Continue interview with Juniper Harrower here