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Photo by Jill Pelto

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Jill Pelto Gallery


11th, 12th, AP® / College


Science, Biology, Visual and Performing Arts

Resource Types

  • Artwork
  • Articles and Websites

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Northeast, Maine

"Quahog, Records of A Changing Ocean"

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  • Jill Pelto beautifully combines data and artistic representation in this watercolor that details some of the data from Quahog clam shells found on the seafloor of the Gulf of Maine.
  • It incorporates isotope data over long periods of time that have been captured in the shells of the long-lived clams.
Teaching Tips


  • This watercolor gorgeously depicts how gathering data from Quahog clam shells at the bottom of the Gulf of Maine can teach us about the ocean's past.
  • Jill Pelto demonstrates how to use data and art together to make a point that is more clear to a broader range of students. 

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be comfortable reading line graphs. 
  • Students should know what isotopes are and how they can be used for studying climate conditions in the past.


  • This piece would work equally well in an art class or a science class.
  • Cross-curricular connections can be made in social studies classes learning about populations and how they learn from the past.
  • Science classes could use this art piece as a hook for lessons about changes to populations and habitats or for lessons about isotopes, paleoclimatology, and mollusks.
  • Students could use this piece of art as inspiration for their own art. Have them find or create a graph that details something else they are interested in and overlay it with art that details the graph's subject. 
  • As an extension, create a gallery of the artwork generated and invite other classes to visit!
Scientist Notes
This watercolor by Jill Pelto depicts changing oxygen, radiocarbon, and nitrogen isotope ratios in Quahog clam shells in the Gulf of Maine from 1680-2000. This piece is an artistic representation of Fig. 4.3 (page 120) in Whitney (2020). A quick read of Chapter 4 in that dissertation will be necessary to make much sense of the painting. The dissertation clearly illustrates how these isotope ratios trend with changing water temperature and salinity in a roughly 100 year pattern, but the piece is of only artistic value without a wealth of prior knowledge. This resource is recommended for teaching for advanced students. Whitney, N.M. (2020). Using Modern and Paleoceanographic Isotopic Systems to Reconstruct Late Holocene Temporal Oceanographic Variability in the Rapidly Warming Gulf of Maine. (Publication ID 27835391) [Doctoral dissertation, Iowa State University, Ames].
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • HS-LS2-2 Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.
    • PS1: Matter and its Interactions
      • HS-PS1-1 Use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
  • National Core Arts Standards
    • Visual Arts: Standard 7 - Perceive and analyze artistic work.
      • VA:Re7.1.Ia Hypothesize ways in which art influences perception and understanding of human experiences.
      • VA:Re7.1.IIIa Analyze how responses to art develop over time based on knowledge of and experience with art and life.
      • VA:Re7.2.Ia Analyze how one’s understanding of the world is affected by experiencing visual imagery.
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