Art in Bio: Crocodiles and Ph.D. Candidate Kaitlin Barham

by Kaitlyn M. Murphy , Ph.D. Candidate, Auburn University

Since 2020, ICB has been celebrating the beauty being created no matter the turmoil in the world. Here’s our latest installment of Art in Bio.

When Ph.D. Candidate Kaitlin Barham was deciding on a career, she was between ‘art’ and ‘science’ when her school guidance counselor persuaded her to pick just one- or so she thought. I first saw Kaitlin’s work on the cover of Crikey! Magazine, a publication by the Australia Zoo.

@AustraliaZoo magazine

Kaitlin is a second year Ph.D. Candidate under Professor Craig Franklin at the University of Queensland studying estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) thermoregulatory behavior. Prof. Franklin’s lab partners with the Australia Zoo, where together they travel to the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Northern Queensland and operate the world’s longest running survey of estuarine crocodiles. “I’ve loved drawing for as long as I can remember and while I chose to major in a scientific degree during undergrad, art is what kept me sane,” Kaitlin says.

Ph.D. Candidate Kaitlin Barham’s illustration of ‘Noel’.

The illustration on the cover of Crikey! Magazine depicts ‘Noel’, a crocodile that had been caught and was in the process of release. “We were on Rainbow Bend, which has these beautiful colors of red from falling leaves and blues and yellows. For just a moment Noel stayed on the surface of the water; which is slightly unusual because most of the time crocodiles will immediately submerge after release. I loved this image and decided to illustrate it.”

Kaitlin learned how to attach radio transmitters to crocodiles, which track an individual’s movement for many years.

“During my Ph.D., I realized there is a disconnect in what scientists do and what people see and understand that we do. I think that art is a way to bridge this gap,”

Kaitlin Barham

“When I’m not thinking about my Ph.D., in a way I still am when I’m drawing,” she adds. Kaitlin has traveled to the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve three times over the course of the last two years and has learned how to attach transmitters to individual crocodiles to track their movements.

Using GPS systems, her lab and the Australia Zoo can record the locations of crocodiles over many years- creating a massive dataset on crocodilian behavior. Each time an individual is caught, scale and blood samples are collected to measure physiological attributes (e.g, hormone concentrations, immunology).

“I often use a tablet for sketching and have produced 3D models as well. I made a digital model for weighing crocodiles in our lab,” Kaitlin adds. “I think that science and art 100% work hand-in-hand. It provides an avenue to think about the same problem in two different ways.” Indeed, Kaitlin’s illustrations provide a unique and stunning perspective on these modern day dinosaurs.

Behavioral illustrations of estuarine crocodiles by Ph.D. Candidate, Kaitlin Barham.

“Scientists are pretty creative people. Not everyone is big on aesthetics, but everyone is creative,”

Kaitlin Barham

While she ‘chose’ science, Kaitlin has shown that these two often considered vastly different fields can work together to create informative and moving illustrations of our natural world. “Hand-in-hand”, Kaitlin Barham continues to bridge knowledge gaps using science and art.

Hand-in-hand. The foot of captured estuarine crocodile resting on Kaitlin’s hand.

Kaitlin Barham is a scientific illustrator open to collaborations! To get in contact with Kaitlin regarding illustrative opportunities, contact her at Check out her description of recent work at as well!

If you’re interested in learning more about the impactful work of the Australia Zoo and Prof. Franklin’s lab at the University of Queensland please consider subscribing to Crikey! Magazine at All proceeds go directly to conservation initiatives by the zoo!

& check out this free ICB Croc read:

Alligators and Crocodiles Have High Paracellular Absorption of Nutrients, But Differ in Digestive Morphology and Physiology 

Christopher R. TracyTodd J. McWhorterC. M. GiengerJ. Matthias StarckPeter MedleyS. Charlie ManolisGrahame J. W. WebbKeith A. Christian

connect with blogger @KMurphyau

read these SICB journal articles on Crocs:

Crocodylian Snouts in Space and Time: Phylogenetic Approaches Toward Adaptive Radiation by Brochu

Effects of Incubation Temperature on Crocodiles and the Evolution of Reptilian Oviparity by Webb et al

IOB (our sibling open access journal)

Vertebrae-Based Body Length Estimation in Crocodylians and Its Implication for Sexual Maturity and the Maximum Sizes 

Masaya IijimaTai Kubo

Author: suzannecrmiller

Author of Queen, Wage, The Selections on Amazon, Fly on site and soon to be Souvenir through @Inkdedingray publishing

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