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Sketching out a career in science

A coloring book is helping children in New Zealand learn about that country’s marine environment, thanks to the work of a graduate of CSU Monterey Bay’s Science Illustration program.

Corlis Schneider, who earned a certificate from the program in 2011, created illustrations for the book as part of an internship at the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre and Aquarium in Dunedin.

Schneider is among a small number of professional artists who make up the field of science illustrators, people who work at the confluence of art and science.

“When you’re younger, you don’t think there is a way to reconcile a love for art and science,” she said. “So you grow up focusing on science, like I did, or art.

While earning a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from UC Santa Cruz, she realized that her favorite classes were the labs where students had to illustrate their specimens.

“Dr. Mary Silver taught several classes that I took, and she recognized my passion for drawing. She invited me to start illustrating plankton for a website in her lab. That was my first real taste of science illustration,” Schneider said.

After graduation, she worked in several biology labs, and started thinking about graduate school. That’s when a friend reminded her about the program at CSUMB.

“I ended up procrastinating on my marine science application and spending every day after work putting together a portfolio for the science illustration program. It was clearly the right decision for me,” she said.

She landed in New Zealand when the Marine Studies Centre contacted the program looking for interns. New Zealand sounded “exotic,” Schneider said, and she knew she could focus on marine illustrations.

The centre wanted a coloring book, which was a “substantial project for a two-month period, but I really enjoyed the experience,” she said.

A second internship, at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, started soon after her return to the U.S. That one lasted three months and involved pen-and-ink drawings of snake eel specimens.

She’d recommend the program at CSUMB. “I learned more in the nine months on campus than I have from any other program or class I have taken,” she said. “I’m a much better illustrator and confident in my abilities now.”

The program was definitely boot camp, but “it was worth it for me. “I have been freelancing for about three months now in Los Angeles, and I am loving it.” Photo: Corlis Schneider at Yellowstone