Biologist Narrissa Spies, UH Hilo alumna, inspires artwork for national STEM conference

Tuesday, October 8, 2019, 10:58pm by

The piece, by Laurie Sumiye, depicts Haumea, Hawaiian Earth Mother and Creation Goddess (ancestor to all indigenous Hawaiians) and is modeled after Native Hawaiian scientist and UH Hilo alumna Narrissa Spies.

By Susan Enright

Narrissa Spies, an alumna from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is the inspiration behind artwork created by Laurie Sumiya for the upcoming 2019 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference. The conference is a three-day event to be held Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, 2019, in Honolulu.

SACNAS stands for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, an organization that supports and promotes Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

SACNAS

@sacnas

Meet the muse for the artwork: SACNISTA Narrissa Spies!✨Aside from seeing her depicted in this year’s art, Narrissa is also a graduate student in @UHNews.

🔗 Learn more about Narrissa and her research on coral reefs >> https://www.hawaii.edu/news/2018/01/23/a-role-model-who-revels-in-research/ 

Images of Narrissa smiling in the lab, looking in microscope. Background image of 2019 SACNAS artwork featuring Narrissa holding a tree.
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Spies grew up in Hilo and Kawaihae, where her childhood aspiration was to become a medical researcher. She began her studies at Hawai‘i Community College, then graduated from UH Hilo with bachelor of arts degrees in molecular biology and anthropology and a master degree in tropical conservation biology and environmental science. She received her doctor of philosophy in zoology from UH Mānoa. She is now a fish and wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

About the Artwork
“‘Ano Lani; ‘Ano-Honua” by Laurie Sumiye.

Artwork of Narrissa with volcano in background, she has her hands in the ocean cradling fish, and has a tree image on her front.The piece, titled after a traditional Hawaiian proverb meaning “A heavenly nature; an earthly nature” depicts Haumea, Hawaiian Earth Mother and Creation Goddess (ancestor to all indigenous Hawaiians) and modeled after Native Hawaiian scientist and SACNAS member Narrissa Spies. In her hands, she carries the Makalai tree, a tree of life. Behind Haumea is an active volcano (representing creation), verdant green mountains, and the Scorpio and Pleiades constellations (representing the ancestors). Below her, swims a red fish (representing nourishment), an iwa bird (representing travel and clear direction), and colorful hibiscus flowers (representing the diversity and beauty of Hawaiian people and native flora). As a whole, the artwork depicts the creation story — a tale of who we are and how we got here.

The upcoming conference is the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the country. The three-day event focuses on empowering participants for their academic and professional STEM paths. Participants are inspired by scientific research and professional development sessions, motivational keynote speakers, an expo hall, and multicultural celebrations. “At 2019 SACNAS, you can shape your own STEM story inspired by your ancestors, mentors, and peers—nourished by diversity and fueled by passion for discovery,” notes the website about the event.

To learn more about Spies and her research while at UH, see UH Hilo alumna Narrissa Spies: A role model who revels in research (UH Hilo Stories, Jan. 24, 2018).

 

Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.