Michael Garstang Unveils Art as Gift to Environmental Sciences

September 22, 2009 — As he wrapped up a distinguished career as a University of Virginia professor of environmental sciences, Michael Garstang began to draw. Then he began to paint, producing both pen-and-ink drawings and watercolors of the wildlife of his native Africa.

His artwork has since been featured in several venues, including Fellini's #9 restaurant, Play-on Theatre and the Colonnades.

On Sept. 16, Garstang, who grew up in South Africa, unveiled a painting of an African elephant as a gift to the Department of Environmental Sciences, where he has worked since 1971. That work now hangs in public view near the mural room in Clark Hall, as a reminder of the professor's notable decades-long research in Africa and elsewhere.

That research, and the connections Garstang made with African universities and governments, paved the way for numerous multidisciplinary research and education initiatives now conducted by U.Va. faculty and students in several countries in southern Africa.

"I want to thank the Department of Environmental Sciences and the University for the enormous opportunities that have been provided to me to expand my research and teaching beyond my original field of meteorology, into the fields of atmospheric chemistry, behavioral biology and geochemistry," Garstang said. "This is exactly what an interdisciplinary department is all about."

Garstang said his research, with the full support of the University, has given him "astounding experiences" at research sites around the world, from Africa to the Marshall Islands to the Amazon basin, to Thailand, Barbados and beyond.

"I have been able to give many of my students wonderful experiences as well, taking them to several countries, sometimes for extended periods of time," he said. "And this is what a university is about. It's not just getting a degree – it's a total experience."

"This fabulous gift reflects Mike's wonderful creativity in science and as an artist," said Dave Smith, associate chairman of the Department of Environmental Sciences. "His career has touched many students through his teaching and his research, and now he will touch many more through his art."

— By Fariss Samarrai