The College of New Jersey

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Bradford L. Day

Project Topic / Abstract:

“Understanding Botanical Structure Through Illustration: An Interdisciplinary Approach”

Biological illustration integrates scientific observation and artistic ability. Illustrations are used in both textbooks and the primary literature as an important medium of research communication. A well-drawn illustration can reveal the smallest intricacies about a specimen. This study involved the use of three types of illustrations to document several botanical specimens. Illustrations were created using pen and ink, utilizing a form of shading known as stippling. The first type of drawing focused on the development of Brassica rapa. Illustrations documented changes in gross morphology over the thirty-five day life cycle of this rapid-cycling plant. Secondly, details of B. rapa flower morphology were portrayed following the observation of fresh flowers with dissecting light microscopy. The third illustration type depicted the three-dimensional structure of several gymnosperm pollen grains. Based on observations with scanning electron microscopy, drawings of pollen from five extant and four extinct species were rendered; these included, Gnetum nodiflorum, Gnetum gnemon, Ephedra aspera, Ephedra californica, Welwitschia mirabilis, Monosulcites sp., Eucommiidites sp., Leguminanthus siliquosus, and Erdtmanispermum balticum. These illustrations provide detailed information about overall shape, aperture type, and surface ornamentation. The different forms of illustration present a variety of challenges, but are invaluable learning tools; the ability to couple a picture with a concept enhances the opportunity for full comprehension.


  • Five “spot” illustrations of pollen grains in BioScience 47: 809-816. 1997.



  • Truman Undergraduate Research Symposium (Kirksville, MO)


  • National Conference on Undergraduate Research (Austin, TX)
  • Truman Undergraduate Research Symposium (Kirksville, MO)