The complexity and interconnectedness of sustainability issues has led to the joining of disciplines. This effort has been primarily within the sciences with minimal attention given to the relationship between science and art. The exclusion of art is problematic since sustainability challenges are not only scientific and technical; they are also cultural, so the arts, as shapers of culture, are critical components that warrant representation. Hence, it stands to reason that understanding art-science integration will benefit sustainability’s focus on use-inspired basic research. In this paper, we focus on artist-scientist team dynamics and the impact of those team dynamics on the quality of their outputs, in service of gleaning insight into how interdisciplinary teams can better work together to address sustainability challenges. In other words, we ask the question “How do art-science teams reason together, validate ideas, and produce robust outcomes when facing a task related to complex socio-ecological systems, which sit at the crux of sustainability challenges?” To address this question, we conducted a small-group pilot study of artist-scientist teams tasked with developing interpretive signage for the Tres Rios wetland site. We collected survey and ethnographic data to account for intra- and interpersonal interactions in teams. Specifically, this study focuses on variables we call barriers or carriers, which aid or hinder the collaborative interactions of deeply diverse teams. We found that successful art-science collaborations appear to result in improved communication skills, better problem articulation, more creative problem solving, and the questioning of personal and disciplinary mental models.
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