Darwin Day at Minot State

Heidi Richter combines art and science to create illustrations for college science textbooks.

Richter, a 2005 graduate of Minot State University and a board certified medical illustrator and paleoartist at Precision Graphics in Champaign, Illinois, was a presenter Friday at MSU’s annual Darwin Day.

Richter, set up with a computer in the Beaver Dam in the Student Center, drew illustrations all day of dinosaurs and fielded questions from students about her work.

“It’s great to talk to students about what I do for a living,” said Richter, who said she valued the chance to talk to presenters when she was attending the university. People don’t always make the connection between art and science, but Richter said science is a very visual field.

When she is working on an illustration for a textbook, she must do a lot of research to be accurate and also work closely with the textbook’s author, who might make suggestions. In times past, an illustrator drawing a picture of a dinosaur might have been able to make some educated guess work about what a dinosaur looked like, perhaps giving it skin like a crocodile.

Now scientists have a much better idea what dinosaurs looked like, said Richter. For instance, Darwin Day guest speaker Tyler Lyson discovered the dinosaur fossil Dakota, a fossilized mummified hadrosaur in North Dakota. The mummified remains included skin and other soft tissues, giving a picture of the dinosaur’s skin pattern. Dakota is the entry exhibit at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck.

Lyson, a paleontologist working at the Smithsonian, is from Marmarth. His research interests are broad and include morphological evolution, systematics, and extinction patterns of reptiles. Also speaking during Darwin Day was artist Josh Hoeks from Iowa City, Iowa.

The Darwin Day activities included an artists’ exhibit on “What does evolution mean to you?’ There was an interactive “Evolve” drawing on display in the Beaver Dam in the Student Center. Visitors wrote on the white paper and pictures were taken throughout the day to show the evolution of the drawing.