Web edition: July 27, 2012
Print edition: August 11, 2012; Vol.182 #3 (p. 32)
“I am so awesome.” [Smug grin.]
So goes the final frame in a humorous comic called “Birds are Gross,” in which artist and field naturalist Rosemary Mosco highlights the virtues of the turkey vulture. The bird, speaking throughout (“I am a turkey vulture. Yes indeed.”), reaches this conclusion after announcing its proclivities for things like projectile vomiting and poop-mediated temperature control.
“I like showing people animals that aren’t especially appealing, and then highlighting what’s really neat about them,” says Mosco, 31, of her “Bird and Moon” comic strip series. “Lately, I’m really into herpetology. I love skinks and salamanders. Salamanders, I think, are really, really unappreciated.”
Mosco’s interests sometimes follow her home, which is currently in Boston. “We have a little rescued corn snake,” she says, in a nod to the resident whose diet has turned her freezer into a scary place. “Half of it is frozen vegetables, half of it is frozen mice.”
A native of Ottawa, Canada, Mosco has been living a half-and-half life for as long as she can remember, tugged by both art and science. As a kid, she would venture outdoors for some quality snake-seeking, then return home and “write stories and terrible kids’ books.” In college, Mosco recalls marching into her adviser’s office and asking if she could major in both science and art. “He looked at me like I was crazy and said ‘No.’ So I wound up doing anthropology.”
Now, though, the schism is resolved. Mosco is blending her science background —she has a master’s degree from the University of Vermont’s field naturalist program — with her artistic endeavors. She’s worked for nonprofit organizations, the U.S. National Park Service and public radio, helping to explain climate change and other issues. But explaining science through art, especially in just a few words, can be nerve-racking. “The science can be really complicated,” she says.
Mosco says it’s worth it, though, and enjoys knowing that her projects can make a difference. Once, a nonprofit printed her vulture comic on a T-shirt and sent Mosco a photo of a woman wearing the shirt and holding a huge turkey vulture. “It had a cute name, like Ed or something,” Mosco says. “I got choked up.”