Emily Poole’s newest project found inspiration in a podcast.
“BirdNote: Chirps, Quirks, and Stories of 100 Birds” is an illustrated version of the popular BirdNote podcast. The book consists of illustrations and essays on bird behavior compiled from the NPR podcast of the same name.
The book was released March 20, and she’ll be doing a book signing at Valley Books from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday. On Saturday Poole is also part of the “The Art and Science of Learning to Coexist with Wildlife” event at the National Museum of Wildlife Art.
“I produced 101 illustrations for the book, mostly of Western and Pacific Northwest bird species,” Poole said.
Her creative process might seem a little more scientific than most, as it should. Poole isn’t just producing artistic renditions but is trained in scientific illustration and natural history art.
“A lot of bird behavior is strange,” she said. “It’s a challenge to get birds in motion. I listened to all the podcasts. Every bird was eating or doing something.”
The book is formatted like the podcast episodes. The episodes have consistent ingredients such as bird calls, birds in water, and weather. The essays and illustrations pay attention to the other important sensory observation techniques like color, habitat and behavior.
Poole took photos and made sketches, then sent her detailed renderings to a panel of scientists that wrote the essays for the book.
“There was one revision round for them to send me feedback, like the beak is too short or change the markings,” she said.
Having grown up in Jackson, Poole said the compelling nature of the Tetons greatly influenced her.
“Growing up in Wilson and being in the swamp with more moose than people, it shaped my view of what I find interesting, and interesting in nature,” she said. “My goal is to use artwork to learn about what’s going on in the natural world and what we can do to protect it. I believe that playful and accessible images are the key to effective science communication.”
Poole received her BFA in design from Rhode Island School of Design. While at the school, Poole enrolled in a travel course that took her to Guyana with Dr. Lucy Spelman. Dr. Spelman is one of 156 board-certified zoological medicine specialists in the world and author of the “National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia.”
The course emphasized the importance of connecting ideas, information and methodologies across the arts, humanities and sciences, with an emphasis on biology. Poole had the opportunity to take a poignant look at biodiversity while in the course.
“I got to study animals of my choosing and create animal art,” she said.
It’s been her niche since.
“BirdNote” came through the collaboration with Sasquatch Books, which Poole had reached out to when she moved to Eugene, Oregon. In February 2017 Poole got the call that the publisher wanted her to do a book based on the popular podcast. She had two and half months to create her sketches and two months to complete her final paintings.
“BirdNote” aims to inspire people to pick up their binoculars and take notice of the “Who’s Who of Ravens and Crows” (also the title of a “BirdNote” episode explaining the difference between the two species’ bills and calls).
The project has kept Poole close to her passion of conservation. Poole has also worked with Creature Conserve and the Teton Raptor Center, drawing resident animals and co-creating merchandise.
Among all of the ink and watercolor illustrations, Poole said she loves her ringneck pheasant the most.
“I really like how it came out, running across the page, the motion of it.” she sasid. “It’s really fun.”
The original ink and watercolor paintings are 9 by 12 inches and available for purchase. ￼