Until this week, Canberra artist Dan Power spent his days explaining to people why science is important – either through art, or his day job as an educator at Questacon.
On Tuesday, he got a call confirming his message was finally getting through.
Power has been announced as the winner of the emerging artist category for this year's Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize, for his full-sized bull skull delicately etched with images of threatened species of native flora and fauna.
Speaking on the way to the airport to fly to Adelaide to accept the prize at the South Australian Museum, he said his mission as an artist was to "promote communication of science, through other means, namely art itself, as a way of actually presenting scientific concepts and ideas".
He studied evolutionary biology and zoology at the Australian National University, but has put career plans in those areas on hold to focus on his art.
The Waterhouse is the first award he has entered.
"At the moment, with my background in biology and stuff, there's a very heavy focus on conservation and ecology," he said.
"As a result, I've been paying attention to a whole bunch of the environmental issues that are going on throughout our country and throughout the world, and it seems that basically that old, outdated land use practices, cattle-grazing and stuff, seem to be adding immensely to these environmental problems that are facing the world today."
The skull – brought back by a friend from the town of Captain's Flat outside Canberra – features several species that are on the IUCN Red List of threatened or endangered species, including the night parrot and the Leadbeater's possum.
Another is the hairy-nosed wombat, which has been brought back from the brink of extinction through restrictions on agriculture in its native habitat.
"It's showing the fact that, at the moment, biodiversity is suffering a huge hit as a result of agriculture but it doesn't actually have to be that way," Power said.
"There is still the chance to preserve that natural diversity and natural history."
The Waterhouse judges described Power's piece as "confronting" and as a "strong metaphor that is both striking and disturbing".
The award comes with $10,000 in prizemoney – a handy development given that Power is set to head overseas next week to try and get some experience as an artist.
"It was all contingent [on money] – and I now have an immense boost and a whole new scope of opportunities, a week before leaving the country," he said.
The Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize 2016 will tour to the National Archives from September 16 to November 13.
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