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UW Natural Science
Illustration Graduates 2020


In late 2019, a small group of students banded together and began to explore our shared love of art and science through the University of Washington’s Natural Science Illustration Certificate program. Little did we suspect what the year ahead had in store for us. In addition to the academic challenges of the program itself, we suddenly had to contend with a global situation in which no one knew what to expect. 

Originally, we looked forward to the exhibition of our final illustrations at the Burke Museum; the traditional culmination of this annual program. However, in 2020, we realized that an in-person museum exhibition would not be possible, and we would have to come up with an alternate way to display the pieces we all worked so hard to create. By that time, our Covid Cohort (as we jokingly refer to ourselves) had begun to function well as a team outside of classes. 

Having already been required to adapt to online learning and digital discussions, devising our own virtual museum exhibit was a natural extension of the new format.

This website represents the online museum exhibition showcase of the U.W. Natural Science Illustration Certificate Program Class of 2020.

Amelia Bates

Meet Amelia

Amelia K. Bates is an illustrator living in rural Wisconsin. She works as the staff artist for Grist, a nonprofit environmental news website, and has a certificate in Natural Science Illustration from the University of Washington-Seattle. Amelia is experienced in multiple areas of art; editorial, scientific illustration, and fine art being the main areas she excels in. She occasionally takes on freelance projects, including various art for local farms, wedding invitations, book covers, and a logo for Montana’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

She draws inspiration from birds, plants, and other denizens of the natural world, and is currently at work on a tarot deck featuring Wisconsin’s flora and fauna. One day, she hopes to live in even more rural Wisconsin, where she can homestead with her partner, explore with her dog, and draw all that she sees.

Trae Bien

In Trae's words:

I’m Trae, an artist based in Seattle, WA. Ever since I was young, I have always loved drawing birds and plants found around my home. My parents are engineers and they fostered both my technical and creative sides from the start. When it came time to decide on a future in college, I ultimately went the technical route – first with Architecture, then Civil Engineering. It’s not a choice I regret but I never wanted to choose at all. To this day I still live with this balancing act between technical and creative pursuits.

I love how Scientific Illustration brings me opportunities to creatively present technical information that simultaneously pleases, teaches, and inspires. My approach always begins as analytical– an examination of how things work and why they exist. I seek to bring out the beauty and intention behind those systems, portraying how the subject moves, feels, and lives. My work is thus characterized by a high attention to detail with fine linework and features. Birds have been an increasingly frequent subject throughout the years, but my portfolio includes all types of subjects in a variety of mediums.

I am most relaxed when out in the woods and mountains; I find so much inspiration in exploring and capturing its beauty. In my free time you may find me sketching, painting, birding, practicing photography, hiking, camping, rock climbing, biking, snowboarding, skiing, hammocking, and/or reading.

Robin Bundi

Meet Robin

As a child Robin spent my time picking weeds and flowers and dabbling in artistic endeavors. In college she studied graphic design but found great joy drawing, painting, and sculpting botanicals in my additional studio classes. Robin spent almost a decade working as an in-house graphic designer and then a little less than half a year walking across the United States among the wildflowers and weeds. While studying Nature Science Illustration she realized she needed to move my passion for art into my day to day experience. She is constantly inspired by the natural world.

Jessica Castillo

Meet Jessica

Jessica finds an an abundance of inspiration in her surroundings. From the flowering cacti in the Sonoran desert to the forests of the Pacific Northwest; and the tide pools of California coasts to Australian parrots.

She is fascinated with the role scientific illustration has in the modern world. She seeks to understand and document the natural world and interpret complex scientific data in a visual manner, like the skeleton of a horse or the reproductive system of a flower.

Her goal is to refine her style as an artist and illustrate for science and nature publications. One day even illustrate her own children’s book!

Currently she builds websites and freelances as a graphic designer for nonprofits and consulting firms. Jessica uses the design process to help people start/create/build new ideas and experiences for others to enjoy. 

Sarah Creekmill

Meet Sarah

Growing up in the heart of Alaska instilled a love of nature in Sarah from an early age, eventually leading her to the UW Natural Science Illustration program. A lifelong artist, she found it to be a perfect blend of her passions! 

Before relocating to Washington, Sarah earned a BS in biology with minors in art and mathematics. Today, she works at UW as a Research Scientist while also building her career and experience as an artist. 

A fan of fantasy and sci-fi, Sarah can often be found playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends in her free time. She enjoys combining scientific and fantasy elements in her artwork and making pet portraits for her family and friends. Working in a variety of mediums including watercolor, charcoal, digital, and more, Sarah is always interested in trying new things and tackling new challenges, and she is excited to continue depicting the natural world!

If you are interested in seeing more work by Sarah Creekmill, purchasing art, or commissioning a custom piece, you can visit her website, follow her on Instagram, or contact her at

Erin Fox

Meet Erin

Erin Fox is a Cascadia-based artist specializing in colored pencils. She received her science degree with a focus on Atmospheric Science at Seattle Central College. She returned to art after a short stint modifying global climate models. 

Her major sources of inspiration include the natural world, travel, vintage rock posters, Eastern folk art, and 60’s counterculture. With an ever-present slant towards environmentalist and communitarian ideologies through a variety of media, her work explores the intersections between the worlds of abstraction, representations of nature, and the role art takes in the socio-political realm. 

She has exhibited work throughout Cascadia with over 15 exhibitions throughout the past 5 years, worked with Pacific Science Center in creating educational art content during the pandemic, and recently completed the Scientific Illustration Program at UW. She lives and works in Seattle, Washington.

Michelle Guo

Meet Michelle

Michelle graduated from Centre College with a Bachelor of Science degree in May 2019 with a biology major and a studio art minor. Her artistic studies were focused on oil painting, charcoal drawings, and glassblowing. Since attending the Natural Science Illustration program at University of Washington, she has made works in carbon dust, ink, watercolor, and many more. Now she is working as a scientific/medical illustrator in Seattle. Her goal is to be able to illustrate and explain the complexities of the world and make them accessible for everyone.

Avida Knebel

Meet Avida

 Avida Knebel is an artist and lifetime critter enthusiast based out of Seattle, where they were born and raised. They’ve had a passion for art and biology since a young age which led them to study general biology and natural science illustration at the University of Washington. Most of Avida’s study has focused on invertebrates, which they find to be fascinating and generally overlooked creatures.

This fascination led to an interest in invertebrate husbandry, and Avida now tends a personal collection which includes pill bugs, slugs, and hissing roaches. They find these creatures and their antics a constant source of mirth and artistic inspiration.

Avida currently does freelance work, and has enjoys working in both digital and physical mediums (including pen and ink, carbon dust, and colored pencil). They take much inspiration from the natural world around them, and love to go nature watching and bug hunting in their free time. During normal years, Avida volunteers for the Seattle Aquarium as a beach naturalist, interpreting the nearshore environment for beach visitors at low tide.

Though Avida’s interests primarily lie in the natural world, they don’t stop there! Springing from their passion for biology and science fiction is a love for speculative evolution and world building. In addition to illustrating creatures from Earth, Avida enjoys using their biology background to design and illustrate organisms that might exist on other worlds. Some of their speculative biology work can be found in Almost Real: A Speculative Biology Zine (Vol. 1), and more can be found online at

Rebecca Loeb

Meet Rebecca

For Rebecca, science and art are a match made in heaven.  As a young child she was a keen observer on her family’s woods walks.  Her school notebooks overflowed with drawings in the margins.  She won a prestigious award for her high school art portfolio, but believed an art career to be impractical the time.  Instead, she pursued her other interest in science and obtained a degree in conservation biology in 2011.  Her 20s were spent flitting from odd job to field job on both sides of the country.  She still loves the field life but would like to be able to supplement it with creative work.  She hopes her art will inspire in others a curiosity, appreciation and better understanding of the natural world.

Caitlin Nielsen

Meet Caitlin

Caitlin is an illustrator with a background in the biological sciences and a lifelong love of the natural world. Her curiosity and fascination with animals were encouraged from the start by her marine biologist parents, and she grew up exploring the wild forests and rugged coasts of the Pacific Northwest. She devoted many years of her life to working with animals and studying animal behavior, taxonomy and phylogeny, conservation biology, and environmental science. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Puget Sound and a master’s degree in zoology from James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. Currently based near Seattle, her mission is to create lifelike illustrations that convey a high level of biological detail. 

Caitlin has a fascination with under-appreciated species and is especially enthralled with fishes and other aquatic organisms. The delicate, intricate anatomy of a fin ray or the perfect arrangement of guanine crystals that creates the iridescence in a fish scale can hold her attention for hours. While any sufficiently advanced biology may seem indistinguishable from magic (to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke), a good scientific illustration can make this magic visible to anyone. Caitlin’s goal with her illustration work is to reveal details you might never otherwise see.

Mara Orenstein

Meet Mara

Mara Orenstein observes things. Living things, dead things. Things in the light, things in the dark. Orenstein has been drawing and painting from a young age, with a background in watercolor and graphite pencil. In high school Orenstein focused on drawing and tangibly exploring relationships they saw between the visual arts and music through charcoal, collage, and acrylic painting. 

While admitting to a lifelong devotion to the arts, Orenstein moved on to achieve a bachelor’s of arts in environmental studies, specializing in ecological systems. It was when studying abroad in southern Chile the austral summer of 2017 that Orenstein found a passion in field drawing, which reignited the childhood dream of becoming a ‘real’ artist. Two or so years later, Orenstein was accepted to the University of Washington’s Natural Science Illustration program for a year-long immersion into natural history illustration, scientific drafting, and botanical art. 

Orenstein now is living as an artist in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, exploring new mediums such as ink and scratchboard, practicing her craft with watercolor, and drawing what she sees around her, and what comes from her imagination.

Nora Prindle

Meet Nora

Nora is an eastern transplant based in Tacoma, WA. Her medium of choice is fine tip pens, and although she loved experimenting with color, the UW program only intensified her obsession with pen and ink. She values the illustration process itself because it deepens attention, requiring a near meditative state to fully understand a specimen and effectively portray intricate details. Content stippling or cross-hatching away for hours, she loves how a few dots (or a thousand) can express so much. She plans to continue to master pen and ink techniques, and collect local specimens to focus on depicting wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. When not drawing, Nora spends her time exploring Point Defiance Park, looking for harbor seals, and pampering her giant cat. She also has a Bachelor’s in Art and Art History, and a Master’s in Psychological Science.

Megan sampognaro

Meet Megan Sampognaro

Megan is a science illustrator and ecologist with an interest in plant-pollinator interactions, fungi and botany. Her fascination in drawing very small things began in the Olson Lab, at California State University Monterey Bay, where she spent two years identifying bryophytes (mosses) in which she used illustration to teach herself different morpho-species. 

Now that she has a Certificate in Natural Science Illustration, she plans to continue her career in science while illustrating what she finds along the way. Megan believes science illustration can be used to bridge the gap between scientists and communities and inspire people to look more closely at the world around them and her goal is to make science more approachable to the causal viewer. Her favorite mediums are graphite and pen and ink. The simplicity of these mediums help her to capture the smallest details and textures of her favorite subjects. Feel free to contact her with any commissions, questions or comments!

Suzanne Solomon

Meet Suzanne

Having spent most of her professional life as an art educator, quilt maker, and ceramicist in Southern California, Suzanne took a lengthy hiatus from the art world. After 15 years, a move to Seattle, WA and the opportunity to once again be in the classroom as an art instructor, Suzanne decided it was time to work on her drawing skills, specific to animal illustration. The University of Washington’s Natural Science Illustration Certificate seemed to fit her needs. 

For Suzanne, the experience of working closely with so many talented classmates and instructors was life changing. The skill set these individuals brought to the program in scientific knowledge, work ethics, artistic talent, creativity, support and friendship made this program special for Suzanne. Her favorite part of the program was the opportunity to critique and discuss the weekly homework. The insights and comments from staff and students alike helped Suzanne grow as an artist and ultimately become a much better teacher. 

COVID-19 was a game changer for Suzanne. The time in isolation in the home allowed her to observe nature in her own backyard and record the activity through the medium of art. Watching the flicker families forage for dropped seeds from the bird feeder; seeing the families of stellar jays enjoying a good dirt bath together; the scamper of a rat hugging the fence as it darts for the fallen fruit of a nearby apple tree; nature in all of her glory in Suzanne’s backyard, an opportunity she feels she may have missed had she not been forced to quarantine at home. Those observations made her a better illustrator.

Chris Thompson

Meet Chris

As a child Christopher Thompson would draw along with his favorite kids television program “Captain Bob”. Fish, mammals, and birds were his favorite things to draw. This is where his journey began. 

Christopher has always desired to pursue a career in the arts, eventually obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington. In his early days after graduating he was drawn to tattooing to push himself as an artist and to expand his knowledge. He learned how to work with his clients to illustrate their visions and ideas. 

In addition to tattooing Christopher had also continued to paint and illustrate being involved in numerous group and solo exhibitions. His work has been published in magazines and newspapers as well as artwork for record albums. After 25 years in the tattooing profession he decided to switch gears. Christopher was drawn to study Scientific Illustration at the University of Washington. Since creating artworks involving flora and fauna his studies in those areas was a natural progression especially living in the Pacific Northwest. 

Christopher lives with his wife Julia and their three dogs in Bothell, Washington

Li Wang

Meet Li

Li Wang is an artist based in Seattle, Washington. She currently studies in Georgetown Atelier at Gage Academy, focusing on figure drawing.

Seeking beauty and exploring nature have been her lifetime pursuit. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in 2008. She moved to the United States with her family in 2012. Following her passion for art and the motivation to explore a new career option, she went back to school and developed her technical skills in art and design at Columbia Basin College beginning in 2018. She was awarded the Allied Arts Association Continuing Student Scholarship from Columbia Basin College in 2019 and was invited to participate in an art exhibition at the Gallery at the Park in Richland, Washington and Student Art Show at Columbia Basin College in 2019. She was also invited to participate in CBC Scholarship Recipients and Alumni art show in 2020. In 2019-2020, she has studied in Natural Science Illustration Program at the University of Washington and received her certificate in Scientific Illustration successfully in June 2020.

She was trained in drawing, painting, illustration, and graphic design. With her background in Biotechnology and Art, she aims to become a successful Scientific/Medical Illustrator in the future.


Each program graduate has submitted three of their personal favorite works to include in this gallery, along with a profile picture and individual artist statement. Where applicable, a link to each artist’s personal website is included along with their profile. Most of us sell fine art prints and printed merchandise on our own websites, so if you like what you see here, please feel free to explore the rest of our works and consider supporting us by purchasing something. The pandemic situation has hit small business owners particularly hard; independent artists and illustrators are no exception! Profits from any items purchased go directly to the artist you purchase from, and your support means the world to us new graduates and enables us to keep creating beautiful works of scientific art.

Interested in learning more about the program?

This website represents the online museum exhibition showcase of the UW Natural Science Illustration Certificate Program Class of 2020.