Kent Stark student’s art published in scientific journal

Dwayne Yates

Jacqueline Dillard has changed her major from art to biology and wants to study bugs for a living


Credit: DKS Editors

As a scientific illustrator, Jacqueline Dillard, senior biology major at Kent State Stark Campus, has had her lifelike paintings of fossils published in the British scientific journal Nature.

Dillard’s drawings depict an Indohyus, the missing link that connects whales to a small deer-like animal, verifying their status as mammals.

“I started this when I was a sophomore, and I just started taking biology courses,” Dillard said. “When people were listing these names of journals, I had no idea what they were. When he (a professor) said Nature, I was like, ‘Yeah, Nature, that sounds like a cool magazine.'”

She had no idea how prestigious being published in Nature is until she told people about it – they were instantly impressed.

But her real surprise came when she discovered her work being used by National Geographic.

“I was pretty freaked out because I found them myself,” Dillard said in relation to her drawings being featured on National Geographic’s Web site.

She typed “Indohyus” in the search bar and was surprised when National Geographic used her drawings instead of Carl Buell’s. Buell is a famous scientific illustrator who has done a number of paleontology drawings, including Indohyus.

Dillard said one of the best things about scientific illustrations is their ability to make the subject of nature interesting to people who are generally not attracted to the topic.

“One of mine is a wasp,” she said. “A really, really close up of one. It almost looks like a horrible alien creature. Someone who just might think ‘Oh, stupid little wasp,’ might see this drawing and be like ‘Hey, that’s kind of cool, I guess.'”

Her love of bugs goes back to childhood.

“I liked to scare people with things,” she said. “That’s probably another reason why I’m drawn to insects because a lot of people are terrified of them. I used to collect millipedes in cups and try to hand them to people when I was, like, five.”

Her love for art goes back as far as her love for nature. Many people in her family were artists, including her mother and grandmother. When she began college in 2004, she was an art student.

“I was studying art, and I just decided I didn’t like doing abstract stuff,” she said. “I just like to draw things realistically, so I kind of was a little disenchanted with art during my first couple semesters.”

After taking a science course as a liberal education requirement, she became highly interested in biology and switched her major. After that, someone told her about a field called scientific illustration. Dillard figured this would be her chance to draw realistically by incorporating science in her art.

Her favorite course completed so far in college is entomology, in which she collected insects by a pond.

Despite her success in being published more than three times, Dillard said there isn’t a lot of work available for scientific illustrators, and she does not want to illustrate on commission for the rest of her life.

In addition to working with Hans Thewissen, a researcher at Northeastern Ohio Universities and Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, on the Indohyus fossil and having their work published in Nature, she has worked on drawing maggots with a retired Kent State professor.

She said the weirdest thing she has ever drawn was the maggots’ rectum.

Currently, she is working on her own research. The first is on pools of water that form in forests in the spring. She is studying the pools and the invertebrates and insects that live in the pools.

Her second study is on why earwigs are living in the husks of cicadas, a topic she came up with through her own observation.

Dillard hopes to study insects in graduate school and research their social behavior.

Contact College of Education, Health and Human Serivces Reporter Dwayne Yates at [email protected].