Kenyan Hippo Ecology Illustrations

Until recently, our understanding of hippos impact on ecosystems has been remarkably slim due to the danger they pose to scientists. New research has shed light on their huge ecological impact: from increased grazing due to the shortened grass lawn they create, to water ecosystems impacted by their defecation. This illustration was commissioned by Science magazine for their feature 'River Masters', highlighting the research of Dr. Doug McCauley of UC Santa Barbara. Artwork for a weekly journal like Science is often needed very quickly, and this piece was completed in ~5 business days. © Nicolle R. Fuller, Sayo-Art LLC
A closer look at our hippo passing food, and the eventual resulting algae. A new tidbit I learned on this project: hippos have flat hairy tails! I also didn't know anything about the nile monitor, shown here poking its head above the surface with a fish in its mouth. 
This illustration shows three interconnected food webs of the Mara River Basin in Kenya. In the background (upper left) is the forest habitat where much of the ecosystem input comes from fallen leaves. The center portion focuses on human impacts, like grazing, farming and settlement, causing algae blooms. The final downstream portion is the iconic Masai Mara where the diverse plants and animals are impacted by what happens upstream. This piece was commissioned by UNESCO's MaraFlow research project Dr. Masese of Dr. McClain's group.  
A closer look at the river ecosystem dominated by people, cattle and agriculture. 
A closer look at the Masai Mara underwater ecosystem. Starting on the left is a B. altinialis fish chasing a small school of B. cercops, a M. kannume (elephant fish) about to eat a dragonfly larvae, and in the center is a L. victorianus fish.
A look at one of my preliminary sketches. The overall layout is very similar to the finished art, but many of the individual components, like groups of fish, have been nudged, flipped and shifted once I see how everything is playing together in color. 

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