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From the Artist’s Perspective: Exploring Wildlands

The Climate Science Alliance, in partnership with the Connecting Wildlands & Communities (CWC) Team at San Diego State University, is excited to host Kim Reasor as our 2020 Climate Art Fellow. Kim has been working with the team since June to visualize the major take homes of this project for a public audience. In this edition of “From the Artist’s Perspective,” hear from Kim directly on how the process is going and what she has completed so far! 

Visiting the SDSU Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve

I recently visited a field station run by San Diego State University--Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (SMER). SMER bumps up against the city of Temecula, and this area is ideal for observing the wildland-urban interface in action. The Santa Margarita River, fed year-round in part by water from the Colorado River, winds through beautiful areas of diverse vegetation and wildlife.

Small fish in the river and sparkling sunlight

I stood in places in the reserve where other animals had traveled, gazing across I-15 and Temecula towards Palomar Mountain and other wild areas. At night the highway and city glowed with light, while the hills and mountains were black. The roar of the traffic on the freeway was surprisingly loud and almost unceasing. In the morning I heard birds near by which helped to push the sound of the interstate into the background.

I collected a few clippings from some typical plants and a small sample of water from the Santa Margarita River. I left with a better understanding of the complexity and conflicts facing the CWC team as they try to balance the interests of many stakeholders with preserving wildlands and promoting climate resilience.

This experience helped ground my ideas as I developed the refugia Venn diagram project (I will come up with a more elegant title) further. I’m using gradations of value and color saturation to express the relative strength of different types of refugia. Where they overlap, the refugia is stronger. Each circle portion represents areas with specific characteristics:

The visual aid of the diagram helped me to identify and narrow down my choices of landscape to illustrate the characteristics of each refugia type: temperature refugia (i.e.; cooler), undeveloped, and ecologically important (i.e.; richness, diversity of plants and animals).

I had a good discussion with the CWC Team last week about improving a couple of my picks for the landscape references.

And here you can see a “rough draft” version of the full-scale piece! I presented this to the group last week which allowed me to show the scientists what I am trying to do:

Since this is a “draft” - some of the imagery isn’t fully detailed. Nevertheless, you can see that the background is gray and lighter in value than the circles. The outermost circles have a little color and are a bit darker in value. The three triangular shapes around the center are more colorful and have stronger value contrast. And the center, which will represent an oak riparian area, has the brightest color. The gradient is meant to illustrate the idea that refugia themselves exist along a gradient, rather than being an either/or thing.

I am having the cabinet for the full-size piece professionally constructed (I am many things, but someone who can work with the precision required of wood-working is not one of them) and am so excited to get to work on the full-size piece!

Thank you for reading and I will post again soon about this and my other artworks!

- Kim Reasor


To learn more about Kim Reasor and her work please visit: or connect with her on Instagram @kim_reasor

For updates on the Connecting Wildlands and Communities Project, please visit:


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