Where Are They Now? Young Explorer Natalie Treadwell

Natalie Treadwell is an artist and cartographer from Anchorage, Alaska. She joined the 2016 class of Young Explorers on Adventure Canada’s Heart of the Arctic expedition. Learn more about Natalie’s artistic and academic successes since her time as a Young Explorer in this Q&A.
Natalie Treadwell recent headshot

© Photo courtesy of of Natalie Treadwell

Adventure Canada: Tell us about your research and the expedition you joined as a Young Explorer.

Natalie Treadwell: I joined the 2016 class of Young Explorers on the Heart of the Arctic expedition aboard the Ocean Endeavour. We started in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, crossed the Davis Strait to the Hudson Strait, and docked our journey in Iqaluit, Nunavut. I was invited aboard the ship to research natural art materials.

In Kangaamiut, Greenland, I received a generous gift of seal fat after I watched a flensing demonstration ashore. With support from the Ocean Endeavour’s galley crew, I rendered the fat into oil. The seal oil was then mixed with oil paint to create a new—and rather stinky—method of oil painting.

The dried result was an odourless, luminous coverage of paint that was much shinier than traditional linseed oil methods. I later repeated this experiment with whale oil from Kimmirut, Nunavut, which yielded similar results. I also brought aboard octopus ink, which I sourced from Alaska, to produce daily sketches of our journey.

Natalie drawing in Kangerlussuaq Greenland

© Photo courtesy of of Natalie Treadwell

Natalie sketches a scene near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.

AC: So, what have you been up to since your expedition?

NT: In 2019, I finished my Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Southern California. My senior oil painting thesis, called Crude, showcased landscapes of resource development in Alaska. My work introduced the origins of energy extraction as a way to jumpstart conversation around land use, energy development, and conservation.

Each painting was paired with a quote by Secretary of the Interior and Governor of Alaska Wally Hickle, from an interview where he recollected his time negotiating the development of big Arctic energy projects.

Since then, in 2021, I completed my Master of Science in Geographic Information Science and Technology, also through the University of Southern California. My thesis project used satellite LiDAR data and Landsat-8 multispectral data to create bathymetric depth maps of the Bellot Strait, one of the many routes in the Northwest Passage.

This technique has become more widely available with free LiDAR height data collected by the ICESat-2 satellite, which was launched in 2018 and could be used to improve coastline modeling in larger Arctic Ocean interpolations. It’s also helped me visualise the terrain of the Northwest Passage.

Natalie and other Young Explorers in Kangerlussuaq

© Photo courtesy of of Natalie Treadwell

Natalie takes a moment to pose for a snapshot with other 2016 Young Explorers: from left to right, David Prieto, Johan Sigurdson, Trevor Wallace, and Michael Dexter.

AC: How did the Young Explorers program inspire you?

NT: I was really inspired by my Heart of the Arctic expedition to contribute to mapping efforts of Arctic waters. My artwork continues to evolve to represent landscapes and spark discussions that include an Arctic perspective.

I still paint from my home studio in Anchorage, Alaska and consider all my work to be deeply inspired by my time with Adventure Canada. The Young Explorers grant gave me the confidence to pursue life as a professional artist, as well as the chance of a lifetime to travel and create.

I intend to continue living in a Northern climate and use both my cartographic and artistic skills to help tell more stories of the Arctic. I sign all my artwork with the contour lines of the Susitna mountain range, a reminder of the Alaskan landscapes which first inspired my creativity.

Natalie painting on board Ocean Endeavor

© Photo courtesy of of Natalie Treadwell

Natalie paints from the deck of the Ocean Endeavour.

Find out more about Natalie and her portfolio of artwork. Learn more about her Master of Science project and see the maps she produced.