LAKE STEVENS — A mustela nigripes, trichechus manatus and gymnogyps californianus are among the eight portraits in this new series of posters.
Enjoy these creatures of the Earth now, while they’re still here.
What’s up with that?
The digital paintings by Lake Stevens High School graduate Cal Robinson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. The three fancy names above that look like typos are scientific-speak for a ferret, a manatee and a condor, but you knew that, right?
“When I painted the portraits, I wanted to capture the personality and spirit of the species and help make an emotional connection between the viewer and the subject,” Robinson said.
The fuzzy, black-footed ferret is downright adorable. The friendly West Indian manatee could be a Squishmallow. The stoic California condor is a supermodel.
Other endangered species on the pinup posters include an insect, a plant and a fish.
Robinson, 34, is a public affairs specialist at the Fish and Wildlife office in Sacramento, California.
Art typically isn’t part of this job description, but Robinson’s skills go beyond words to convey a message.
“I hope that when people view this artwork, they will connect with the species and be inspired to learn more about them and why we should protect them,” Robinson said.
The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 to establish protections for fish, wildlife and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered. To date, 99% of species that have received protections under the act have avoided extinction, an agency press release says.
The act became somewhat endangered during the Trump administration rollbacks that made it easier to remove animals and plants from the list. The Biden administration has moved to reinstate protections.
Robinson’s posters represent species where recovery efforts have been the focus of local communities, state and federal agencies, tribes, conservation groups and private sector partners. There is a species for each of the eight Fish and Wildlife regions nationwide.
“Cal is a very talented artist, and their work is helping connect people to endangered species and the issues they face in a powerful way,” Meghan Snow, a spokesperson for Sacramento Fish and Wildlife, said by email. “The portrait of the California condor is based on a real condor who survived lead poisoning.”
Portraits printed on canvas hang in the agency’s office. Posters are not available for purchase at this time.
“I don’t even have any yet,” Robinson said.
The public domain images can be downloaded at a reduced resolution for social media and printing.
Also, the U.S. Postal Service has 20 charismatic endangered species on a set of stamps that recognize the act’s anniversary.
Robinson has degrees in linguistics and biology.
“I’ve been drawing since I was little,” they said. “My dad (Grey Robinson) was an outdoorsy guy and he’d take me rock climbing and camping and skiing. My mom (Caroline Robinson) was a gardener and she was always helping me be curious about the natural world by showing me things happening in the garden, plants growing and spiders making webs. She showed me the methodical way spiders attach new strands of silk to their web.”
Robinson started doing art for the government with interpretive signs and murals while working for the U.S. Forest Service.
After joining Fish and Wildlife, Robinson created an Obscure Species Club comic strip, color-by-number pollinator series, infographics on wildlife and other projects, as well as the usual public affairs communications stuff.
“My supervisor supported my use of art in communications,” they said.
The agency considered contracting an external artist for the endangered species campaign posters until Robinson’s supervisor pointed out there was already one on staff up to the task.
“Let your supervisor know what you can do,” Robinson said. “When they find you can do art, there are usually projects out there. You can be that person.”
The five other endangered posters in the series are: Ursus maritimus, Argyroxiphium kauense, Salmo salar, Lepidochelys kempii and Bombus affinis.
These are commonly known as Atlantic salmon, polar bear, Kemp’s ridley turtle, rusty patched bumble bee and Ka’u Silversword.
Know which is which?