A Tale of Two Phylogenies

A Tale of Two Phylogenies

“A Tale of Two Phylogenies” was done as part of a course in my undergraduate work. The goal was to visualize a set of data using a booklet in an aesthetically pleasing way while maintaining the integrity of the dataset. We were asked to generate networks with the help of the program Gephi and ensure the data was an accurate reflection of the content. This project was completed over the course of two weeks.


Data Visualization

Layout Design


Type Design


Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Indesign


the data

The data for this project comes from Jarrod D. Hadfield, Boris R. Krasnov, Robert Poulin, and Shinichi Nakagawa from their journal A Tale of Two Phylogenies: Comparative Analyses of Ecological Interactions published in The American Naturalist. It examines the relationship between fleas and hosts. Their data set on interactions was free to view as a student and I used this to guide my interpretation of the data. I studied what the relationships meant and also investigated the animals involved. I proceeded to examine what was difficult to understand and ideate ways for me to make the data more simple.

the visualizations

The next step was to generate the data visualizations. I had not used Gephi prior to this project, so I had to learn it quickly. I chose the arrangement of the networks and how the text should appear. I also chose colors that would make the data more meaningful and easier to interpret. Animals that are cooler in color had more interactions while those that are warmer had fewer. I also used size to emphasize this principle. This combination was effective when presenting it to classmates.

the illustrations

The networks are rather organic-looking, so I decided I wanted to use organic forms to complement the data. They were generated by manipulating an image of a flea I found. I thought that it was fitting given that all three datasets are about the interactions between fleas and small mammals. The results reminded me of networks themselves, which I found fitting given the topic.

the layout

For this dataset, I wanted to have the data itself be the star of the booklet. That is why it is the only element in color while all of the other elements stay in black and white. I choose to stick with sans-serif fonts to give the booklet a more modern feel that has a more scientific appeal.

I chose to include a guide with the scientific names of the hosts in more common terminology. This came from my investigations early on with the data on how to make it more accessible. Next to it I also put a list of all the kinds of fleas referenced in the data. They did not have, nor require, common names as they were all fleas.

For the networks, I decided to give them a bit of space so they would stand out. I also added a map and a key to simplify the data a bit. The descriptions on the verso are in written by me in an attempt to use more simple language to describe the data. I had also decided to include a few key points from the data so the user could determine these immediately.


If I was given more time with this project, I would have loved to include more details. Pages on key findings from the interactions featuring specific animals would have been a nice touch. Also adding blurbs to further emphasize the significance of the data would have been an improvement to add in a future iteration.

data from

Hadfield, Jarrod D.; Krasnov, Boris R.; Poulin, Robert; Nakagawa, Shinichi (2014), A Tale of Two Phylogenies: Comparative Analyses of Ecological Interactions, The American Naturalist, Article-journal, https://doi.org/10.1086/674445