Spiny Water Flea by Kassia Lesiewicz

For this oil painting, Kassia Lesiewicz wanted to show the link between water clarity and the food chain surrounding Spiny Water Fleas, an invasive zooplankton that have entered many lakes in Wisconsin. Lesiewicz placed the Spiny Water Fleas in the center of the image and exaggerated their size, showing how, when present in large numbers, they throw off the balance of the food chain which leads to poor water clarity, among other things. This stems off of Ben Martin’s research on Spiny Water Fleas, which emphasizes how these small creatures create noticeable changes in our water systems. Included in the image are predators of Spiny Water Fleas such as Yellow Perch and Walleye [pictured at the top] and prey of Spiny Water Fleas like Daphnia [pictured bottom left], a kind of native zooplankton who consume algae. Martin explores how, when these Water Fleas are given the chance to grow in population, they outnumber both their prey and predators, leading to limited Daphnia available to keep algal blooms from growing. This process is illustrated through the top-down depiction of the food chain, with poor water clarity being the end result.


Kassia Lesiewicz is a sophomore Art major at UW-Madison. She has a really deep interest in both science and art, so she’s planning on going into biomedical illustration. With this, she’d be creating pieces to be used in textbooks, hospitals, or for other general education purposes! Her main mediums are oil paint and colored pencil, although she’s also starting to work digitally too. You can see some of her finished pieces and work-in-progress pieces on her instagram @kassiarosel.

ABOUT THE Water Researcher

Ben Martin is a PhD Graduate Student with Dr. Jake Vander-Zanden at UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology. Martin’s research focuses on assessing threats to aquatic ecosystems including invasive species, pollution, and habitat change. He often pairs ecological and evolutionary concepts to understand applied issues in aquatic ecology. He views science outreach as an essential tool for scientists to broaden the impact of their work, and is passionate about ensuring his science is approachable and distributed beyond the academic bubble!

Funded by the Center for Humanities HEX-U Undergraduate Exchange.