In Spring 2013, based out of the small settlements of Niaqornat and Kullorsuaq, expeditionary artist Maria Coryell-Martin accompanied scientist Dr. Kristin Laidre onto the pack ice of Baffin Bay. Dr. Laidre and colleagues are investigating the effects of sea ice loss on narwhals and polar bears, iconic species that are highly adapted to the extreme Arctic environment and vulnerable to climate change.

Coryell-Martin worked alongside the scientists as they recorded data on the health and movements of narwhals and polar bears, creating ink and watercolor sketches, as well as multimedia recordings. Following the tradition of artists working with early explorers, her work complements the science, and will be developed this year into a collection of stories and imagery to illustrate the impact of climate change on top predators of the Arctic.


Dr. Kristin Laidre

Dr. Kristin Laidre

Marine Mammal Biologist

Dr. Kristin Laidre is a marine biologist at the University of Washington, Seattle working at the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Lab and the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. She received her Ph.D. in 2003 from University of Washington and worked as post-doctoral fellow at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Nuuk, Greenland, between 2004 and 2006. Kristin’s research is field-based and is focused on studying the behavior, ecology, and population dynamics of Arctic marine mammals. She is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Polar Bear Specialist Group, the IUCN Species Survival Commission Cetacean Specialist Group, and has worked with the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission Beluga and Narwhal scientific working group and the International Whaling Commission.

Maria Coryell-Martin

Maria Coryell-Martin

Expeditionary Artist

Maria Coryell-Martin is an expeditionary artist following the tradition of traveling artists as naturalists and educators. She graduated from Carleton College in 2004 and received a Thomas J. Watson fellowship to explore remote regions through art from 2004-2005. Since then Maria has worked with scientists, local communities, and travelers in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and the Antarctic Peninsula. In the field, Coryell-Martin sketches with ink and watercolor, and collects multimedia recordings to build her palette of place, a record of experience, climate, and color. This work becomes the basis for exhibits of large-scale studio and field paintings, as well as multi-media presentations and hands-on workshops for audiences of all ages to promote observation, scientific inquiry, and environmental awareness.

Tiina Itkonen

Tiina Itkonen

Exhibition Partner

Finnish contemporary photographer Tiina Itkonen lives and works in Helsinki, and is partnering on exhibition events. She graduated from Turku School of Art and Communication in 1995 and the University of Art and Design in Helsinki (renamed Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture) in 2002. Since 1995 she has traveled regularly to Greenland to photograph polar landscapes and people. Her photography book Inughuit was published in 2004. Her work has been shown in numerous international group and solo exhibitions: amongst others at festivals and venues such as the 54th Biennale de Venezia, 17th Biennale of Sydney, Danish National Museum of Photography and New York Photo Festival. Tiina Itkonen is represented by Michael Hoppen Gallery in London, Gallery Taik Persons in Berlin and Kashya Hildebrand in Zurich. Itkonen has been awarded with the William Thuring Prize and the Young Photographer of the Year Award in Finland.


Field Notes #4Student Outreach

Northwestern Greenland, 74.582991,-57.216904

Colorful Kullorsuaq, 7” x 5” field sketch, April 5, 2013, Maria Coryell-Martin

Colorful Kullorsuaq, 7" x 5" field sketch, April 5, 2013, Maria Coryell-Martin

The Greenlandic settlement of Kullorsuaq is home to around 430 people, nearly a quarter of whom are students. My first priority after we landed was to connect with the school to offer a series of workshops. We arranged three visits with about one hundred 1st through 10th grade students.

Field Notes #3Kullorsuaq, Second base of Operations

Northwestern Greenland, 74°34′45″N 57°13′05″W

North over Ummannaq Fjord, photo credit: Maria Coryell-Martin

North over Ummannaq Fjord, photo credit: Maria Coryell-Martin

We left the beautiful settlement of Niaqornat to fly north to Kullorsuaq, the next base of field operations for biologist Dr. Kristin Laidre. Her research was shifting focus, from narwhals to polar bears. Her bear fieldwork is a collaboration with Dr. Erik Born of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources who I’d previously worked with in East Greenland in 2010 for my High Latitudes project.

Field Notes #2Narwhal Research

Western Greenland, 70°47′20′′N 53°39′50′′W

Painting a 7ft long Narwhal tusk in Niaqornat, credit: Kristin Laidre

Painting a 7ft long Narwhal tusk in Niaqornat, credit: Kristin Laidre

Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) are shy and elusive Arctic whales that spend the winter in the extreme pack ice environment of eastern Canada and Greenland. Until the 19th century, there was widespread belief that the iconic tusk of male narwhals was from a unicorn! While we know better today that the narwhal is a real animal, they remain relatively mysterious and much is still unknown.

Field Notes #1Niaqornat, Base of Operations

Western Greenland, 70°47′20′′N 53°39′50′′W

Niaqornat sunrise, credit: Maria Coryell-Martin

Niaqornat sunrise, credit: Maria Coryell-Martin

Our first phase of fieldwork is based out of the small settlement of Niaqornat, located at the head of the Uummannaaq fjord. The location gives good access to Baffin Bay for Dr. Kristin Laidre and her colleagues to study narwhals in the pack ice. They are recording the animals’ clicks and whistles to create acoustic profiles and learn about their communication, feeding behavior, and vulnerability to increased sound in the Arctic. The science project is funded by the Office of Naval Research and my work here for Imaging the Arctic is funded in part by the Vetlesen Foundation. The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources owns a small house in Niaqornat where we can live and feel at home.


Completed Fieldwork

Spring 2013

The fieldwork phase for Imaging the Arctic was completed during March 18–April 16, 2013. Please read our news and field notes to learn more.

Completed Whatcom Museum

January 11, 2013

Dr. Laidre and Coryell-Martin will present for the Whatcom Museum Saturday on Ice series in conjunction with the Vanishing Ice exhibition. The event will feature hands-on Imaging the Arctic activities and a presentation at 2pm.

Current status Development

Winter 2014

Imaging the Arctic fieldwork is currently in studio production to create materials for exhibit, as well as community and school outreach.

Upcoming Fairbanks Science Cafe

February 6th, 2014

Dr. Laidre and Coryell-Martin will be presenting Imaging the Arctic at a Science Cafe in Fairbanks, Alaska. The event begins 7pm Thursday, February 6th at the Noel Wien Library. The evening is hosted by the Colors of Nature program, and is supported in part by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Upcoming Imaging the Arctic Exhibition

December –March 2014

This interdisciplinary exhibit will explore the impact of climate change on West Greenland's ecology and culture through the work of three women, our team of biologist Dr. Laidre, expeditionary artist Coryell-Martin, and photographer Itkonen. The exhibit will feature field art and stories about scientific research in the Arctic, complimented by evocative photographs of the Greenlandic landscape and culture.

Details to be announced.