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Complexity, Visualized

A few years ago, when the avian influenza epidemic raised urgent red flags about the potential for a global flu pandemic, I was working at the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center. The epidemiologists there were working to understand the systems that could trigger such a pandemic and determine what steps might be taken to avoid one.

A major concern for scientists, health personnel, and policymakers is that influenza viruses mutate easily and can even jump species. They are complex systems, they are highly adaptive, and their trajectory is not predictable. With so many people in the world keeping poultry and other livestock near wildlife, and with rapid global travel so common, one of these mutations can become deadly enough to kill people and then spread quickly. Communicating the danger inherent in such a complex system is made easier by the use of graphics: it's easy to follow the flow and trajectory.

Drawing of the trajectory of the spread of a deadly disease

We live in a complex world. How can it be understood more easily with the help of a graphic recorder? Next up, we'll look at the visualization of different complex systems.

Graphically Recording Nature

I recently certified as a California Naturalist. I've been a birder for decades but this was a great chance to increase my knowledge of other pieces of the nature puzzle in our area like fungi, galls, and dragonflies and damselflies.

Drawing of person recording observations in nature

Something magical happens when you sit in nature, journal and pen in hand, and just take it all in. For me, it cleans out the inside of my head. It's a meditation.

Sitting still and focusing on what you see and hear, and recording what species are in your local area, can serve as a valuable resource for scientists as well as addressing nature deficit disorder. Try it! I always learn something new. 

Just like I always learn something new when I step into a room to graphically record a meeting or workshop.