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The Endangered Species Print Project blog. Sharing artists interviews, conservation news, endangered species profiles and art and activism projects.

Remembrance Day for Lost Species

Molly Schafer


Guest post by Matt Stanfield on behalf of the Remembrance Day for Lost Species initiative

Every hour, three species of lifeform vanish from our planet forever. Almost all of this species loss is a direct result of human activity. The rate and scale of the crisis has led scientists to declare that Earth is now experiencing a Sixth Mass Extinction.

Remembrance Day for Lost Species, marked annually worldwide on 30 November, exists as a response to this fact.

The initiative, also known as Lost Species Day, began in 2010. An international grouping of artists and scientists felt that the Sixth Mass Extinction needed to be marked, as other tragedies are, with a day of remembrance.

From the start of Remembrance Day for Lost Species, the aim was always to create an event which was accessible to anyone who wished to commemorate victims of the ongoing extinction event. Memorial activities in past years have ranged from lighting a single candle to holding elaborate funeral ceremonies for lost species. Shown below is a snapshot from a Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) styled procession for the Rodrigues solitaire, an extinct bird.

Remembering the Rodrigues solitaire, 2012. Photo & image rights: Ben Ellsworth, used with permission

Remembering the Rodrigues solitaire, 2012. Photo & image rights: Ben Ellsworth, used with permission

It is significant that both artists and scientists were involved in establishing Lost Species Day, since the initiative is keen to bring together both scientific and artistic responses to the present-day extinction crisis. The interdisciplinary nature of the Day reflects our strong desire that the event should be as inclusive as possible.

In many ways, the heart of Remembrance Day for Lost Species lies in storytelling. The extinction stories of individual species are an excellent way for people to develop an emotional connection with what the Sixth Mass Extinction really means. I can still remember the first extinction story which I learned: the tragic tale of the thylacine, declared extinct in 1936 after decades of persecution. From learning about this animal as a young child, I developed a lifelong awareness of the damage which humans are inflicting upon the rest of nature.

The power of extinction stories is not just found in their exotic settings and the often otherworldly-seeming species to which they relate. When learning about lifeforms now lost forever, thoughts often turn to the many, many threatened species which still survive. In the future, will Lost Species Day also have to commemorate pygmy three-toed sloths, Chinese giant salamanders and Philippine eagles? I hope not and am sure that other participants in Lost Species Day will feel the same way. 

This brings me on to the other key aim of Lost Species Day, besides providing a time for remembrance. The initiative hopes to encourage people to commit anew to doing what they can to ensure that at-risk species have a future. 

Those of us behind Remembrance Day for Lost Species have found that creative activities, such as art, are an invaluable way for people to develop a sense of the value of biodiversity. Arts workshops have been a big feature of many events around Lost Species Day. Below is one of my own attempts to respond artistically to the Sixth Mass Extinction, a drawing of a Yunnan lake newt, a Chinese species believed extinct since the nineteen-seventies.

Yunnan lake newt, 2016. Image copyright Matt Stanfield

Yunnan lake newt, 2016. Image copyright Matt Stanfield

Of course, Remembrance Day for Lost Species doesn’t have to be about art, or science, or anything more than taking a moment to contemplate what humans have done to so many of the species with whom we share the Earth. How you choose to participate is entirely up to you. 

This year, people all across the world have inspired those of us behind Lost Species Day with the extraordinary variety of responses which they have come up with to the extinction crisis. We are delighted with the enthusiasm which so many people have already shown for the idea and sincerely hope that this reflects a widespread appetite for an opportunity to engage more deeply with the rest of nature.

If this piece has inspired you to participate in this year’s Remembrance Day for Lost Species on 30 November, why not visit to find an event near you or to let us know about something which you are planning for this year’s Lost Species Day.

Words by Matt Stanfield on behalf of the Remembrance Day for Lost Species initiative.


Molly Schafer

Last year over 1,300 rhinos were poached for their horn. In 2016 4 tons of poached pangolin scales have been confiscated. These animals are quickly being wiped out because of human misconception that rhino horns and pangolin scales have medicinal properties. The truth is both the horns and scales are made of keratin, the same substance that makes up human nails!

We called on the artistic community to help spread the message. Many artists created artworks using nail clippings to illustrate how rhino horn and pangolin scales are really just giant toenails. Kids joined the campaign painting their feet like rhinos with toenails for horns. 

You might be thinking this all sounds a bit gross...we know! But that is the point. These animals are being killed in masses so people can ingest horns and scales that are made of the same materials as our toenails. We want to gross them out!

The Conference of the Parties to CITES starts in just 3 days and we demand that pangolins and rhinos receive more protection from illegal trafficking. 



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  • See our infographic detailing rhino and pangolin poaching here
  • Read the full project description and call for art here
  • Get kids rhino art project ideas here
  • See all the work on the JustGiantToenails hashtag here

Thank you to all the talented artists who participated in our campaign. Please keep posting your pangolin and rhino artworks!

Oh and could you please share this post to help us help animals? Use #JustGiantToenails and thanks!


Tiny Activists: Rhino Feet

Molly Schafer

Do your kids want to get involved in our Art Project for Rhinos and Pangolins? Here are some ideas.

Rhino horn is made of keratin- just the same as our toenails! For a fun way for kids to support rhino conservation on World Rhino Day (Sept. 22) try one of the projects below. We can't wait to see what you come up with so share using the hashtags at the bottom of this post or email us a photo of your kids project and we will share it on the Endangered Species Print Project blog, instagram or facebook.


FACE PAINT RHINO (or foot paint):


Our tiny activist requested that her rhino get eyelashes!




Post on Instagram & Facebook & use hashtags: #JustGiantToenails #tinyactivists #WorldRhinoDay

ART & ACTIVISM PROJECT: Rhinos & Pangolins

Molly Schafer


Attention Artist & Conservationists:

We are requesting your participation in a social media campaign to raise awareness against rhino and pangolin poaching. Rhinos and pangolins are being poached in record numbers to supply an increasing black market demand for their horns and scales (which are made from the same proteins as our toenails). On World Rhino Day we plan to speak out.  Join with us and lend your talent to support this important cause.


Please draw either a rhino or a pangolin. Replace the rhino horn or pangolin scales with toenail / nail clippings. GROSS! We know. But that visceral reaction you just had... that is the point. These animals are being killed in masses so people can ingest horns and scales that are made of the same materials as our toenails. We want to gross them out!

A few simple rules:

  1. Please do not post until September 21st (the day before International Rhino Day). We want to flood social media.

  2. Our main focus for the artwork is Instagram so please post there. Square images work best on Instagram.

  3. At 9 am EST on September 22nd, we will send out an e-mail with a blog post that will be shareable to all other social media outlets (facebook, twitter, pinterest ect). If we all share from this blog post it will be the best method to get our project noticed.

  4. Please use all of the following hashtags (many are in Vietnamese and Chinese): #justGiantToenails #sátcánhcùngtêgiác #ourhornisnotmedicine #WorldRhinoDay #savethepangolin #穿山甲 #犀牛 #contete #contêtê #worthmorealive #CoP17 #DemandAppendix1

  5. Feel free to use your existing artwork and just replace/cover the horn or scales with nail clippings.

  6. Please share with other artists who may be interested in participating.


If you are interested in receiving reminder emails for this project sign up here.



sample art works by Molly Schafer and Katy Tanis

sample art works by Molly Schafer and Katy Tanis


No, problem. You can still help. Please download the top image and post it on social media with our hashtags.


see our infographic on Rhino and Pangolin Poaching


Rhino and Pangolin Poaching Infographic

Molly Schafer

ESPP Artist Interview: Melissa Washburn

Molly Schafer

Artist Melissa Washburn's studio

Artist Melissa Washburn's studio

Artist and bird enthusiast Melissa Washburn created Endangered Species Print Project's very first woodcut print - a Hine's emerald dragonfly and she hand-colored the emerald eyes on each and every one of her prints!

Melissa Washburn is an artist, illustrator, and graphic designer based in Northwest Indiana. She grew up in upstate New York, but has lived in the Midwest since 1996. Her work encompasses watercolor, mixed media, collage, printmaking, and digital work, and her favorite subjects are things that run, fly, or grow. Melissa is also co-founder of CSA Valpo, a unique local art buying program.

And... she designs trilobite fabric patterns so we know you will love her!

Molly: Melissa, you chose the Hine’s emerald dragonfly for your ESPP print. What drew you to this species?

Melissa: The initial conversations I had with ESPP were about some of my recent insect art, so as I started to research endangered insects I wanted to choose something that people would respond positively to AND that I was excited about portraying. Dragonflies are beautiful, have complex anatomy, and are incredibly beneficial in terms of controlling pests such as mosquitoes. This particular species also lives in the Midwest, which is where I live too.

 Molly: What was your process for creating your print?

Melissa: I started out by reading a bit about the species and looking at LOTS of reference photos. Many dragonfly species look very similar, so I had to figure out how to add something to make this piece truly represent the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly. The most striking feature of this insect is the bright green color on its eyes and sides. Hand-coloring a black and white print seemed to be a good solution. My printmaking process involves lots of drawings, often piecing them together either physically, collage-style, or in Photoshop, to arrive at a final composition. Once I am happy with the drawing, I transfer it to the wood block and begin cutting. Next comes the process of test printing, refining the image by cutting away more/adding detail where needed, and then printing the full edition of the final image.

Heron woodcut prints by Melissa

Heron woodcut prints by Melissa

Molly: Have you had any exciting animal encounters recently?

Melissa: Yes! In addition to insects, I get very excited about birds, and I live in an area along the south shore of Lake Michigan that is visited by hundreds of species of migratory birds annually. I was able to go to a couple of events during the recent Indiana Dunes Birding Festival including a birdwatching hike where I saw about 10 new (to me) species including some beautiful warblers and a yellow-headed blackbird, quite rare for this area.

Molly: Neat! When I lived in Chicago I was amazed by how many migratory birds can be seen in the region. I've seen 3 different species of owls along the lakefront! 

Besides birding what have you been working on lately? 

Melissa: I’m participating again this year in Elle Luna’s 100 Day Project on Instagram, and have been sharing daily pen portraits of people whose work and/or life I admire. You can find me on Instagram at @mwashburnart and search the #100daysproject to see some of the fantastic projects other artists are sharing.

Molly: Yes I've been enjoying seeing your daily portraits! Its fun to see who you select to draw. 100 days is a lot of work- my 100 day project has temporarily fizzled due to my own project overload. So well done and keep up the good work!

Queen of Clubs from Melissa's animal playing cards project

Queen of Clubs from Melissa's animal playing cards project

Ok I like asking everyone this: If money and accessibility were no object and you could go on a nature exploration anywhere in the world- where would you go?

Melissa: The Galapagos Islands, and Colombia. I had the opportunity to spend a week in Medellin, Colombia, last summer for a wedding, and just scratched the surface of this beautiful country. It boasts more bird species than any other country on earth, and a birding tour there would be absolutely amazing.

Molly: As an ESPP artist you obviously are passionate about conservation. What drives you to care about conserving the natural world, why is it important to you personally?

I grew up in the foothills of the Adirondacks in upstate New York, and camping and hiking trips with my family were an early point of exposure and learning about nature. I’ve just always been fascinated with/curious about plants and animals, being able to identify them, and of course enjoying their formal qualities as an artist. Living near Lake Michigan as an adult has been amazing because it is an area of incredible biodiversity and also has a long history of push and pull between environmental concerns and industrial ones. The natural world connects us to something larger than ourselves and preserving it is critical to not just our enjoyment, but our quality of life and our own survival as a species.

A work in progress from Melissa's studio

A work in progress from Melissa's studio


Thanks so much to Melissa for creating such a great piece for Endangered Species Print Project! We only have 50 of Melissa's hand-colored woodcut dragonfly prints on masa rice paper available. 50% of the sale of each print is donated to The Wetlands Initiative. You can get yours here.

Melissa's Hine's Emerald dragonfly for Endangered Species Print Project

Melissa's Hine's Emerald dragonfly for Endangered Species Print Project

Backyard Conservation: Plant a Monarch Garden

Molly Schafer

photo by author

photo by author

After nearly a decade in Chicago we recently relocated back to the mid-atlantic region and have been enjoying a fantastic, flowery, extended Springtime the likes of which Chicago does not know. It is wonderful! 

If you have spring fever like me use your fever for good and help the Monarch butterfly. There has been an 80 percent decline in the monarch population over the last 2 decades. Due to widespread use of herbicide and endless development of formerly wild areas over 100 million acres of monarch habitat have disappeared.

You can help by planting seeds and it's super easy and fun to do!

I am starting my little monarch garden with goldenrod, aster, butterfly weed and some milkweed seeds I purchased at University of Delaware Ag Day. The 2016 Ag Day theme was sustainability which was awesome and I got to pet some bugs and puppies too.  You will need to be sure to use milkweed seeds that are native to the region where you live. 

official monarch waystation sign ,

official monarch waystation sign ,

If you create a monarch waystation be sure to register it with Monarch Watch and get this cool sign to put up. If you don't have a yard consider planting a monarch waystation on land in your community, school, work, etc.  Sprinkle some seeds in an unused patch of land. 

Here are some links to get you started...


Create habitat for monarchs

Milkweed seed finder by state

Monarch Watch (loads of info and seed kits)

Citizen Science opportunities

2016 Lawsuit Launched for Endangered Species Act Protection of Monarch Butterflies




Animal Umwelt at iMOCA

Molly Schafer


The exhibition Animal Umwelt brings together the work of Jenny Kendler and Molly Schafer as well as select works from the Endangered Species Print Project, which the two artists conceived in 2009.

ESPP artists included in the exhibition are Christopher Reiger, Susan Jamison, Megan Diddie, Matthew Hilshorst, Alexis Trice, Molly Schafer, and Jenny Kendler.

The exhibition will be on display at iMOCA / Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art through March 20. 

If you are in or near Indianapolis, IN and see the show please let us know in the comments.  You can read more about the exhibition on the museum's website.

Drawings by Molly Schafer at iMOCA as part of Animal Umwelt

Drawings by Molly Schafer at iMOCA as part of Animal Umwelt

One Hour of Birds by Jenny Kendler on display at iMOCA

One Hour of Birds by Jenny Kendler on display at iMOCA

In the Field: An Interview with Cheyney Jackson of the Marmot Recovery Foundation

Molly Schafer

Photo credit: Oli Gardner

Photo credit: Oli Gardner

The Endangered Species Print Project Vancouver Island Marmots print is one of the four original prints that the we launched with back in 2009.  I was drawn to the Vancouver Island Marmot due to the first part of it’s name. I’d recently spent 7 days off the coast of Vancouver Island on a family camping-kayaking trip.  I was impressed and in awe of the immensity of the wild nature of the island and surrounding area. Bald eagles, seals, orca whales, porpoises, cedar trees and salmon. Crystal clear and bioluminescent water.  Truly amazing stuff! I absolutely did not want to leave and look forward to visiting again.

Below is my interview with Cheyney Jackson, Field Coordinator for the Marmot Recovery Foundation. Cheyney shares stories of marmots in the field, how the recovery is going, and how she keeps track of marmots who live very high up in the mountains. 

The 2015 Marmot Recovery Foundation Field Crew

The 2015 Marmot Recovery Foundation Field Crew

ESPP: First off can you tell us a little bit about the Vancouver Island marmot?

CJ: The Vancouver Island marmot is a large ground squirrel that lives in the subalpine meadows and rock slides of Vancouver Island mountains. Vancouver Island marmots are unique – they have a different appearance, morphology and behaviour than any other marmot.  They live in groups of marmots called “colonies”, and hibernate for seven months of the year. That’s ~210 days! In the summer months, marmots spend lots of time above ground. When they are not sitting on rocks, basking in the sun, or foraging for delicious plants, they can be very playful – they box, wrestle, and chase one another.

ESPP: Why are theses marmots endangered? An endangered marmot sounds kind of funny to many people here in the states. The marmots that live here are so plentiful some people consider them to be a pest. 

CJ: That’s one advantage to working to recover an alpine or subalpine species – they are unlikely to become a pest to anyone! Predation is the main source of mortality and the primary cause of population decline for the Vancouver Island marmot. They are hunted by both terrestrial (cougars and wolves) and avian (golden eagles) predators, so they must maintain a high level of vigilance to avoid being eaten.

photocredit: Jared Hobbs

photocredit: Jared Hobbs

ESPP: When Endangered Species Print Project launched our Vancouver Island marmots print the species’ wild population was at 140 individuals. We have happily watched the numbers climb over the years. Can you give us a brief overview of the wild Vancouver Island marmot population. What was the lowest count and where does the population stand today?

CJ: Although we still have lots to do to make sure the species will persist and thrive in the long-term, we’re thrilled by what we’ve accomplished so far. The lowest count for the wild population was ~35 marmots, if you can believe it! At that time, thankfully, there was already a lifeboat population in captivity to ensure that the species didn’t go extinct. Since 2003, we have released 469 captive-bred marmots back to the wild, and there is now a wild population of ~300 marmots. That sounds pretty impressive (to me, anyway!) but that isn’t a lot of protection against some kind of unexpected catastrophe or disease. We’d like to see a much larger wild population (at least 400-600 marmots), and one with a greater distribution and with stable or increasing population trends over a period of several years.  

ESPP: This recovery is due to the work of The Marmot Recovery Foundation captive breeding program. How are pups released into the wild and how are the marmots surveyed once they have been released?

CJ: Vancouver Island marmots are currently bred at the Calgary and Toronto Zoos, although there were other breeding facilities in the past. In captivity, marmots use plywood boxes with entrance and exit holes as surrogate “burrows” – they live, sleep, hibernate, and raise young in them! So before we release captive-bred marmots into the wild, we visit the release site to install nest boxes that connect to a real burrow or refugium. At release time, we fill the nest boxes with bedding from marmots’ enclosure, and provide some snacks, too. This ensures that there is something familiar to the marmots in all that crazy mountainous terrain, and that they don’t have to search for food right away. 

It’s very important to us to monitor the survival of marmots that we release into the wild. A few weeks before a marmot is released, our project veterinarian surgically implants radiotelemetry transmitters into a space in their abdomen called the peritoneal cavity. The transmitter emits a signal that helps us to track the marmot if they leave the site, and it also tells us how warm they are. The temperature is important, because that gives us an idea of whether they are living, hibernating, or deceased. In some regions of Vancouver Island, the mountains are so big and the terrain is so challenging that we have to use helicopters to check on the marmots. Without transmitters, they’d be almost impossible to find.

photo credit: Oli Gardner

photo credit: Oli Gardner

ESPP: The sub-alpine meadow habitat of the Vancouver Island marmot looks as incredibly lovely as it sounds - do you have a chance to go into the field as part of your work for the foundation and if so what has that experience been like? Rough on the knees I’d imagine- it looks very steep in the photos.

CJ: It sure feels steep, especially at the start of the field season before I’ve got my “mountain legs” back! I started off working as a wildlife technician for this project, so I spent several summers hiking a mountain a day to survey marmot colonies, or camping near the marmots to shepherd them from predators. It really is gorgeous up there, and I loved being able to observe the marmots in their natural habitat. I learned something new every single visit, whether it was how marmot parents carry their pups (by the fur on top of their rump!) or how marmots cool down if they overheat (they lie on the snow, on their tummies like a sea-star!) I still try to get out as much as I possibly can, but I have a fantastic team of young wildlife technicians that have stronger knees and better eyes to do the hard stuff!

ESPP: While reading your website I found it really interesting that most marmot colonies discovered during the 1980s and 1990s were not found by biologists, but by loggers, hunters and hikers. You have an Observer Program which asks anyone who sees a marmot in the wild to take careful notes and contact you with information. 

photo credit: Oli Gardner

photo credit: Oli Gardner

CJ: It’s wonderful to know that there are so many extra eyes out there, looking out for this species. We know of at least 25 colonies at present, and we monitor those fairly closely each summer. But Vancouver Island marmots don’t always stay where we release them, or where we expect them to stay. Some marmots decide to “disperse” – they leave the colony that they were born or released at, and travel through the landscape until they find another colony or marmot to join. We discovered last year, to our great surprise, that marmots can travel over 30km in a single year! So we need all the help that we can get to keep track of dispersers. And if marmots head in the wrong direction and find themselves in unsuitable habitat like a backyard or rock quarry (or the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre this past summer!), we rely on our Observer Program to tell us where to find the marmots so that we can move them back to a proper marmot colony.

ESPP: I love to ask people to share their favorite or most exciting creature (or plant) encounter in the wild. Would you like to tell us yours?

CJ: Probably one of the neatest experiences I had was a few years ago, when I first saw how determined marmots can be when trying to protect their pups. I was hunkered down below the main burrow, sitting under a tree quietly and watching an adult female. The female was watching me, too, and after a few minutes, she seemed to have reached a decision. She came running down the slope towards me, and at the last second before I thought she was going to run into me, she veered off to the side and out of sight behind some boulders. I was puzzled, I had no idea what she was doing, but a few minutes later, I saw her come back carrying a pup hanging from her mouth. Now, this was August, so that pup was three months old and not at all small in size. She had to put him down twice to rest, but she carried him all the way up to the burrow where another adult waited. Then she went back and did the same trip two more times, each time bringing back another big pup to the safety of the burrow. That last trip, she had to stop and rest at least half a dozen times. There had been a cougar that had taken several pups from that colony that summer, probably from another litter, and I later realized that I was sitting very close to the pups’ mortality site. The female didn’t want to take any chances on calling the pups back to her, so she carried them herself. How about that for parenting skills? 

ESPP: Any other marmot milestones or info you’d like to share with our readers?
CJ: I’d encourage anyone who is interested in the Vancouver Island marmot or our recovery efforts to check out our website ( It has some great information about the work that we’re doing, and some amazing photos. This past summer, we started posting blog updates on the webpage so that readers can follow along with our activities over the course of the active season. The marmots are hibernating now, but I imagine we’ll do something similar again starting in May 2016. We have also launched a YouTube channel (Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery) that features videos taken by remote camera at some of our colony sites. I find it so inspiring to watch marmots living in the wild, working to survive even with so many challenges. We are really excited to share this footage with a wider audience!

Green Metropolis Fair

Molly Schafer

Thanks to everyone who came out to see us at the Green Metropolis Fair at the Notebaert Nature Museum.  We had a great time meeting lots of folks and spreading the word about endangered species and the artists who care about them.

Our table was inside the City Creatures exhibit and we had this awesome owl from a Hubbard Street mural as our backdrop. Luckily we are not mice or we would not have been able to deal.

A few of the talented Endangered Species Print Project guest artists from Chicago dropped by which made the day super fun.  Here is artist Megan Diddie with her California tiger salamander print.


And here I am with ESPP guest artist Renee Robbins who created the staghorn coal print. I look sleepy after a long day exhibiting.