Estrella Vega is neither a scientist nor a science illustrator, yet she spent the better part of 5 years researching and illustrating a 5-part guide to the Paleozoic (which you can purchase for another 35 hours via her successfully funded Kickstarter). Aside from being an accessible intro to an oft-overlooked period in evolution, the books’ pages accordion out so that the illustrated panels are uninterrupted by arbitrary page breaks. When all five books are laid end-to-end, they constitute a continuous, 42-foot romp through the Paleozoic.
When I asked Vega about why she decided to tackle a decidedly science-heavy project with no formal training in science or even knowledge that science illustration was a “thing,” she told me this:
“…the first thing that got me interested in the Paleozoic was the [BBC] TV series "Walking with Monsters" which I saw many years ago. I then realized I really didn't know a lot about prehistoric life apart from the fact that fish crawled out of the sea, dinosaurs existed and mammals used to be gigantic…”
Wow, educational television programming sparks a non-scientist to dive deeper into a science topic years later? Science communication: 1; Denial: 0. But if you’re looking to pour your heart and soul into a project, why focus on the Paleozoic? Isn’t it skipped over because it’s just the preamble to the really good stuff? You know what I'm getting at: the dinosaurs we all know and love that dominated the globe for well over 100 million years and then -- *poof* -- just like that they were gone... Again, Vega:
“[T]he idea of doing an accordion book specifically about the Paleozoic came from seeing a printed version of the mural "The Age of Reptile" by Rudolph F. Zallinger. The mural shows life on Earth from the Devonian to the Cretaceous, but the Paleozoic section of the mural is very small while the dinosaurs dominate the rest of the composition. So in response, I wanted to showcase the Paleozoic by making a whole book series about it, instead of having the Mesozoic overshadow it.”
It seems she’s onto something because she blasted through her $6500 goal with a good five days left in her campaign. In other words, people are into it. If I weren't paying attention I might think that good science communication has the power to spark enthusiasm in members of the general public, who are in turn inspired to share their enthusiasm using their unique skills... which sounds an awful lot like a recipe for good science communication. Ummm, can we make an accordion book out of that?