Grassland Spills by Jonathan Morris

Grassland Spills

Paper, Typewriter

Jonathan Morris, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In Collaboration with Dr. Christian Andresen, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This piece was inspired by the work of Dr. Christian G. Andresen in western Alaska. His research has focused on the melting of permafrost in the Alaskan Arctic. This melting is driven by rising temperatures as a result of global warming. Dr. Andresen has documented how the melting of the permafrost creates pools of water scattered throughout the tundra. These pools of water give life to microbes which metabolize plant matter and reproduce, thus releasing potent greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere: specifically, methane.

Dr. Andresen’s research documents yet another example of anthropogenic influence which heightens the impacts of climate change. The piece uses graphs and clippings from Dr. Andresen’s research to symbolize our knowledge of climate change in the Arctic. The words of the poem represent the pools of water that feed into this feedback loop of temperature increase. Knowledge of this phenomena reframes our representation of water in the Arctic, as permafrost melts and is represented through ever-expanding pools of water.  

This piece is meant to emphasize the importance of awareness of these phenomena. Water in all its forms is a key aspect of life on Earth. Change in water as a result of climate change is something that should alarm us; we should take notice before the impacts become too great to reverse.


Jonathan is a Sophomore at UW-Madison studying Psychology with certificates in History and Statistics. He has always been drawn to art as a means to represent complex worldly phenomena. Jonathan hopes to continue to use poetry in the future to integrate powerful ideas into artistic representations. Email:

ABOUT THE Water Partner

Dr. Andresen is an Assistant Professor in the Geography Department at the University of Wisconsin Madison and head of the Andresen Research Group. His background is in environmental sciences and remote sensing applied to Arctic terrestrial and aquatic systems. Visit