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A Brush with Art

Striving to save the ocean through art and science


A climate change scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography is striving to save the ocean through art and science.Using mosaic arts as outreach to promote awareness of climate issues affecting the oceans and environment, Dr. Tim Lueker of Encinitas says, “I want my artwork to bring to light the threats to the natural world, especially the oceans, from greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.” He hopes to accomplish this with students at local schools by working on coral reef mosaics.

Hearing tales of his idyllic San Diego birthplace as he grew up near Lansing, Michigan, Lueker shared weekly Jacques Cousteau episodes with his scuba-diving father, which engendered his love for the ocean and marine life. Lueker subsequently earned his BS degree in Oceanography at Florida Institute of Technology.

Having relocated to San Diego in 1983 to work with famed research scientist Charles David Keeling at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Lueker says, “At the time, other than ocean chemists, few took notice of the effects of CO2 turning to carbonic acid and shifting the equilibria away from carbonate ions. It wasn’t until studies showing how upwelling waters were dissolving calcium carbonate shells that Ocean Acidification became a popular concern. Now we know coral reefs, shellfish, plankton, and all manner of creatures in the oceans are threatened by rising CO2 in the atmosphere.”

Lueker earned his doctorate at Scripps and taught several Oceanography courses at community college, UCSD Extension, as well as Scripps Institute.

With lack of program funding in 2005, Lueker says of leaving Scripps, “After 22 years as a researcher, graduate student, post doc and project scientist at Scripps, I took the opportunity to venture into the world of mosaic arts.”

He adds, “As a scientist I really appreciate ancient stone… Painting with hard materials is very challenging. Visually I strive to create something so like a painting that you can’t tell the difference.”

A natural teacher, the past president of the Rancho Santa Fe Art Guild reaches the decision makers of the future through his mosaic art classes. “I combined mosaics with ocean themes, and found a great avenue for sharing my appreciation and concerns for the oceans and environment with the fun of making mosaics.”

Since 2009 Lueker has conducted classes and workshops in Encinitas, Fallbrook, and Rancho Santa Fe, where several mosaics can be seen on the campus of R. Roger Rowe School.

An Encinitas arts commissioner since 2011, Lueker has resumed his work at Scripps, where he continues to research CO2 and other greenhouse gasses, while teaching marine ecology and environmental change with the art of making mosaics.

Lueker says, “I love the variety of life on earth: Coral reefs, Redwood forests, meadows of wildflowers in the High Sierras or Rocky Mountains. Nature’s beauty is beyond anything artists are capable of creating. I only hope my art will engender respect for life in all its forms on earth.”

Lueker’s mosaics can be seen on his website at and more about his outreach at


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1 comment

Kira Carrillo Corser October 18, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Kay’s article shows how important art is as a way to excite students and the public’s commitment to saving ocean resources! We are lucky to have Dr. Tim on our Sea Changes: ACT team! The public invited to a free and very creative presentation depicting the beauty and status of the oceans, on Nov 10th, Saturday from 3:00 to 4:00 at the Escondido Municipal Gallery, PAG show, 262 E. Grand Ave. The project is funded by a grant from the SD Visual Arts Network’s DNA of Creativity Grant.

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