A new fish in The Fisheries Blog tank: An introduction to myself, the #SundayFishSketch, and my future posts

When Friday morning dawns, many of the #SundayFishSketch followers ready their pencils and paintbrushes, eagerly awaiting the announcment of the weekly theme. A fishy theme that provides twitter artists, both inexperienced and skilled, a challenge and an opportunity to practice their art among their twitter peers. Although not a requirement to post a fish drawn on theme, it is a rallying point for fish artists who don’t have an art piece they are currently working on, and many times the theme incorporates fish groups/species related to current world events or holidays. After spending a day or two on their creations (or sometimes weeks to months), artists post their works via Twitter on Sunday including the #SundayFishSketch, where followers of the hastag can comment, enjoy, and share beautiful works of fish art.

My name is Rene Martin and I recently joined the Fisheries Blog team. I want to use this first post to introduce myself and the #SundayFishSketch to you, and discuss the types of posts you can expect from me in the future. I am excited to start on this adventure, and I cannot wait to share some of my passions with you.

Who Am I?

The Scientist

I am a fish scientist (or ‘ichthyologist’) and currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas. Unlike many of our Fisheries Blog authors, I am not a fisheries biologist; instead, I study fish evolution (or very broadly fish ‘systematics’). Using both DNA and morphology I infer the phylogenetic relationships (how organisms are related to each other) of fishes. The’ trees’ that result from phylogenetic studies are hypotheses on the relationships between the organisms used in each study. Although scientists cannot be absolutely certain of these relationships (unless we create a time machine and travel back in time to witness speciation events), we can be fairly sure of them based on multitudes of studies that result in similar hypotheses of relatedness. Using these phylogenetic trees evolutionary biologists can pursue a multitude of research avenues including studying how organisms diversified, changing scientific names based on new data resulting in new relationships, and exploring the evolution of morphological features. I specialize on fishes that live in the deep sea, including groups of fishes that are bioluminescent (create their own light). 

Deep-sea trawling expedition on the R/V Robert Gordon Sproul off the coast of San Diego.

The Artist

I am also, and this seems surreal to officially write out, an artist. I certainly was not the most committed artist during my childhood, but I enjoyed drawing and painting enough that I considered myself a ‘dabbler’ in art. I took a few classes in middle school and high school, but never dedicated any major time to the practice of art. For most of my twenties I went on a drawing hiatus, starting a few sketches a year but never actually producing a final product. It wasn’t until about three yeas ago in graduate school, and the realization that I had a set path as a fish scientist, that I made the effort to incorporate art into my work. This is where the Twitter #SundayFishSketch comes in, an accountability hashtag I created to motivate myself into practicing art on a regular weekly basis. For those of you that read a previous blog post by Hank (another one of our new Fisheries Blog authors) on the #SundayFishSketch, you can refer back to that post for some additional information. I knew that if I didn’t make time for art, I would lose a skill that is much needed, especially as a scientist. This hashtag gained traction and a community, and now has hundreds of followers and participants every week.

What type of posts can you expect from me?

All things Fish-art

The Twitter #SundayFishSketch

  • As the creator of the #SundayFishSketch on twitter, one of my main goals as an author of The Fisheries Blog is to recap some of the wonderful work that is being done by a multitude of artists pertaining to fish. These posts might include some of the #SundayFishSketch highlights over the month, focus on the creation of the themes or the holiday/news/world events pertaining to them, or highlight a particular artist and the evolution of their artwork since joining the hashtag.

I know it is cliché, but EVERYONE can be an artist

  • As I have delved further into the world of art I have found many useful websites, books, and guides pertaining to scientific illustration, what medias and brands to use, and specifically to drawing fishes. Some of my posts will highlight these guides and websites, and advise you on how to access that hidden artist within you.

A Blast from the Past

  • I think some of the most wonderful and amazing fish art can be found in many historic books and manuscripts. You can expect posts from me that will focus on informing you about who some of these great historical artists are and where you can find their art.
The Arcturus Adventure by William Bebee

Art and Science Communication

  • The majority of the scientific community works on trying to effectively communicate science to their peers and to the general public. In an effort to learn the best ways to do this for my own research, I will post about the tips and tricks to effective science communication that I come across.

Into the Deep

As a researcher who focuses on fishes that live in the deep sea, you can expect additional posts from me regarding recent news on research pertaining to deep-sea fish, expeditions with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and pretty much anything else related to the deep sea.

In Conclusion

I hope this gives you some insight as to who I am and what types of posts you can expect from me in the future. This is my first foray into blogging, so please bear with me as I learn the do’s and don’ts of being a blogger. I am honored that my esteemed collegues invited me to join them at the Fisheries Blog and I am excited to bring my own unique background to future posts. Thank you for reading and watch out for interesting information about fish art, scicomm, and the deep-sea from me in the coming months. 

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