PELLSTON, Mich. — The University of Michigan Biological Station in northern Michigan selected an illustrator and a poet to explore their creative freedom away from home this summer and draw inspiration from the environment around Douglas Lake through its rustic artist residency program.

The 2024 Artist in Residence Program features illustrator and fine artist Vera Ting in June and poet Dr. Madeleine Wattenberg in July.

“Art can challenge our understanding of and assumptions about the natural world,” said Dr. Aimée Classen, director of the U-M Biological Station and a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “We can’t wait to see their work come to life at our field station within our community of students and scientific researchers.”

Each artist completes a live-in residency at the more than 10,000-acre research and teaching campus just south of the Mackinac Bridge in Pellston.

The U-M Biological Station’s Artist in Residency Program, which began in 2018, is designed to introduce new artists to the region and give them the opportunity to interact with the robust scientific community on campus.

“We think by allying with artists and embedding them in our field station, together we can inspire deeper understanding and appreciation of local ecosystems and improve public engagement to support conservation,” Classen said.


Vera Ting, an illustrator and fine artist from Connecticut with a background in avian biology and ecology, is an Artist in Residence at UMBS from May 28 through June 28.

She is familiar with the research and teaching campus in northern Michigan.

The U-M alumna previously worked as a field assistant for bird research at the U-M Biological Station, where she contributed to a study on avian brain activity during spring migration. Ting conducted research on the wing morphology of Yellow Warblers as an undergraduate and earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science in 2022.

She took courses at UMBS in 2019 and 2021, including Florilegium, which was “eye opening” for Ting because it marked the first time she was able to paint and draw in the field — combining her two passions.

Ting has served as a museum technician at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, preparing bird skin and skeletons for the ornithology collection as well as preparing and mounting insects for the entomology collection.

In high school she volunteered in a laboratory at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and learned how to create bird study skin and skeleton specimens for the ornithology collection.

Most recently, Ting worked as a Bartels Science Illustrator at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Through her artwork, she seeks to delve into the delicate balance between ecological communities and the transient nature of living organisms.

With this artist residency, she’s coming full circle. Ting will teach drawing workshops, including beginner-level bird drawing and painting, to scientists, students, staff and their families. She’ll also be creating her own art.

“I’m really excited to reconnect with the landscapes and communities that have shaped my artistic and scientific journey,” said Ting. “I was introduced to all the different types of wetlands when I was a student here and that has really inspired me to learn more about the plants and the insects and to create art inspired by them. I’m looking forward to revisiting the sites and finding new locations to explore this summer.”

The public is invited to Ting’s lecture from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at the U-M Biological Station in Gates Lecture Hall. Her talk is titled “Art and Ecology: The Intersection of Field Exploration and Creative Practice.”


Dr. Madeleine Wattenberg, an award-winning poet and assistant professor of writing at Lakeland University in Wisconsin, is an Artist in Residence at UMBS from June 23 to Aug. 2.

She has never been to northern Michigan and comes from a "a long line of life scientists."

Wattenberg’s scholarship focuses on ecopoetics, queer ecocriticism and feminist poetics.

The author of “I/O” from University of Arkansas Press, Wattenberg’s poetry has also appeared in journals including the Kenyon Review, Poetry, The Rumpus, sixth finch, Fairy Tale Review, Mid-American Review, Guernica, Best New Poets, and Poetry Daily.

During her UMBS artist residency, Wattenberg plans to complete her book manuscript, currently titled “Apoptosis,” which she began during her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Cincinnati.

“It’s a book-length poetry manuscript that starts with how water connects all life on earth and incorporates research on industrial farming, slaughterhouses, and algal blooms resulting from farm runoff,” Wattenberg said. “It’s an unusual book that explores what it means to be a human who eats and consumes. The primary mode is poetry, but I became interested in adding visual components. For example, I erased congressional documents that were concerned with production of nitrate for war and agricultural production. It’s interesting to me that the same material is needed to destroy as to create and provide nutrition.”

She said the field station’s proximity to lakes and wetlands offers an ideal place to revise poems and write new ones.

“These waters and the research they enable will inevitably leak into my poems,” Wattenberg said. “I look forward to finishing the manuscript’s final section, a sequence of poems that take place in a futuristic world where humans’ relationships to water and waste have altered dramatically as the illusion of human separation from environmental outcomes disintegrates.”

The public is invited to Wattenberg’s lecture from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 3, at the U-M Biological Station in Gates Lecture Hall. Her talk is titled "Queer Clearings: Gender, Nature, Poetry.”

The public also is invited to Wattenberg’s poetry workshop, titled “Imagining Futures,” at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, July 21, in Gates Lecture Hall. No poetry experience required. The workshop is happening during the 2024 Open House when families are invited to visit the field station and tour the main research and teaching campus from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, July 21, at 9133 Biological Rd., located off Riggsville Road.

Read one of Wattenberg’s poems titled “James River, Virginia” on the website

For more information about the Artist in Residency Program or the campus in the Northwoods, visit the U-M Biological Station website.

Founded in 1909, the U-M Biological Station is one of the nation’s largest and longest continuously operating field research stations. For 115 years, students, faculty and researchers from around the globe have studied and monitored the impact of environmental changes on northern Michigan ecosystems.

Laboratories and cabins are tucked in along Douglas Lake to support long-term climate research and education.

The core mission of the Biological Station is to advance environmental field research, engage students in scientific discovery and provide information needed to understand and sustain ecosystems from local to global scales. In this cross-disciplinary, interactive community, students, faculty and researchers from around the globe come together to learn about and from the natural world and seek solutions to the critical environmental challenges of our time.