Tucci marries art and science in honors thesis

painting of greenback cutthroat trout

When considering honors thesis options, fish, wildlife, and conservation biology major Rachel Tucci thought of an incredibly novel way to marry her love of science and art, and the results are not only stunning, but are making a difference for endangered species.


wildlife major Rachel Tucci
Tucci poses with one of her endangered species portraits.

Tucci produced mixed-media paintings highlighting endangered species’ in Colorado, and literally put the threats facing the species on the canvas. “I didn’t want to do traditional research that could only be seen by a few people,” Tucci explained. “I wanted to bring awareness to these species, because if people don’t connect with them, they have less a chance of surviving.”


Tucci’s work was displayed on the Lory Student Center plaza, and each painting was accompanied by information about the species, what threatens it, and what people can do to make a difference. Incorporating those threats into the paintings takes that engagement to the next level and further highlights real conservation concerns. For example, since rattlesnakes are largely threatened by roads (both due to being run over and due to habitat fragmentation) Tucci used asphalt in the painting.


Ultimately, Tucci aims to broaden the audience interested in species conservation and she presents a number of ways individuals can make small lifestyle changes that could make a big difference.


In addition to producing art, studying, and participating in the honors program, Tucci works in assistant professor Tai Montgomery’s biology research lab, assisting with their genetics research. “She’s one of the most gifted and talented students I’ve worked with,” said Montgomery. “When she sets her mind to something, she gives it her all. But what really sets her apart is her creativity.” Montgomery went on to credit Tucci’s work’s ability to engage both scientists and non-scientists with her artistry and originality.


Tucci is taking her paintings on a tour throughout Colorado this summer prior to bringing them home to campus to display in the Warner College of Natural Resources before she graduates.

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