Collage of 2013 submissions

Submissions for the 2013 Robert Savage Image Awards

The Swarthmore College Biology Department received 21 submissions for the fifth annual Robert Savage Image Award and we are pleased to present them here.

The images will be judged based on their artistic and scientific merit by Professor Randy Exon of the Art Department and Temple University Professor of Microbiology and Immunology (and painter) Bennett Lorber, ’64.

We will announce the awards at the Biology Department Picnic on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, and the winners will be posted here. click on a thumbnail to see a larger version.

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1. The harmless marbled orb weaver (Araneus marmoreus var. pyramidatus) in the Crum Woods on a fall afternoon.

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2. Six beakers of Ilex opaca (Holly) leaf disks in sodium bicarbonate solution under a purple light. Taken during a Bio 2 lab measuring net rate of photosynthesis under different wavelengths of light. The idea was that leaf disks infiltrated with solution (which makes them sink) would produce oxygen bubbles as photosynthesized and rise to the surface.

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3. Hiking on a grey morning in the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec, I came across this cinquefoil flower (genus Potentilla, most likely Potentilla recta), its muted yellow a stark contrast to the wet green of its leaves.  Its withering sister behind it only drew more attention to perfect symmetry of the living flower, itself a small testament to the vibrant geometry found in the natural world.

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4. The endangered toque macaque (Macaca sinica) monkey, endemic to Sri Lanka. Photo taken at Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park.


5. This image depicts the Anthozoan, Aiptasiomorpha sp., in its retracted state after experiencing physical stimuli. It caves its tentacles into the gastrovascular cavity in order to minimize the amount of volume exposed to potential predators. The sea anemone was ~2 cm from the base to tip of the mouth (in its ‘extended’ state). The picture was taken through the lens of a dissecting scope.

Cherry Blossom

6. A honeybee pollinating cherry blossoms in the Arboretum Cherry Border is one of prettiest examples of coevolution. A similar sight inspired Darwin, who wrote in The Origin of Species, “Thus I can understand how a flower and a bee might slowly become… adapted in the most perfect manner to each other.” This coevolution continues today, but since Darwin’s time human beings have changed the selection pressures on both bees and ornamental trees.

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7. Icicles resemble a vector field indicating the presence of high speed winds in an alpine biome (Mt. Adams in the White Mountains, NH).

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8. Crane flies belong to the order of Diptera. Common members of Diptera include mosquitos and flies. This crane fly is found hanging out on the wall of my dorm. Its back-wing, as showed in the picture, has degenerated into a pair of lobes. If you ever see one of these crane flies, don’t panic and misled them as huge mosquitos. They don’t bite and mostly feed on nectars. The picture could also be used to train your ten-year-old nature-loving cousin, just ask him to figure out what is not right with this picture. (Hint, insects belong to the superclass Hexpoda.)

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9. This is a close-up photograph of a spider web within a green Aechmea plant at Longwood Gardens. Not pictured is the industrious spider who took advantage of the rosette foliage of the Aechmea plant, a large bromeliad.

fetal alcohol exposure and genetic heterozygosity

10. This is a figure compiled from my summer research in a fetal toxicology lab at UNC. This image encompasses the various effects of gene-environment interactions resulting the combination of fetal alcohol exposure and genetic heterozygosity. These mice fetuses were imaged using a light microscope and vary in phenotype from median cleft lip to anophthalmia.

Ciona intestinalis embryos

11. Tiny red dots of propidium iodide-stained DNA light up the nuclei of Ciona intestinalis embryos, both in the follicle cells of two chorion-coated embryos and the epidermal nuclei of three dechorionated embryos, all fixed in methanol. Blue tubulin marks mitotic spindles while slight green stain highlights fibroblast growth factor receptor in now-defunct heart progenitor cells developing just under the outer surface of the embryos. Image taken with a Leica SP5 confocal microscope and composite Z-stacks were created in ImageJ.

An octocoral of the genus Leptigorgia

12. An octocoral of the genus Leptigorgia.  Octocorals – commonly referred to as “sea whips” or “sea fans” for their delicate and elaborate branching structure – are an abundant form of colonial cnidarian.  Two features are worth noting: first are the beautiful crystals that coat the surface of the central axial rod – these calcareous structures are called spicules and provide protection for the soft tissue of the coral within.  Second is the deep brown pigmentation of the emerging coral polyps – the coloring comes not from pigment cells but from millions of zooxanthellae, a type of algae, living symbiotically in the coral.  The image was captured using an extended depth of field microscope.

cone snail

13. An abandoned cone snail shell found on a beach in Okinawa, Japan. Cone snails can have quite a venomous sting, and are known to hospitalize many people in the area on an annual basis.

Arbacia punctulata

14. Side view of the fractured region of a bottom spine from the sea urchin, Arbacia punctulata, under a scanning electron microscope. The striated regions mark the inside walls of the spine, and the largely porous nature of these spines are indicated by the holes.

Lava Lizard

15. A Galapagos lava lizard at the mouth of El Chico volcano on Isla Isabela in the Galapagos. This photo captures a male doing “push-ups” to mark and defend his territory. Of the seven species of lava lizard endemic to the Galapagos, the Galapagos lava lizard is the only found on multiple islands (in the central and western archipelago), suggesting that these islands were more recently connected than their eastern counterparts.

Base of a sea urchin spine Arbacia punctulata

16. Base of a sea urchin spine taken from Arbacia punctulata with an scanning election microscope.

Laing Dormitory

17. Infrared photograph of the mixed forest at the Mountain Lake Biological Station located deep within the Appalachian Mountains in Giles County, Virginia. In the background is the Laing Dormitory where researchers live during the summer months. The white foliage is due to chlorophyll reflecting infrared light in what is know as the “Wood Effect” after physicist Robert Wood. The photograph was take with a Canon PowerShot G1X converted to utilize light in the infrared spectrum for nocturnal research.

 aiptasia pallida

18. A specimen of aiptasia pallida with its algea symbiont bleached out of its cells.

stink bug claw

19. The photo shows the small tarsal claw at the tip of a Stink bug’s foot (Family pentatomidae, Genus Halyomorpha.) The photo was taken with a scanning electron microscope with a magnification of 200x.

water strider leg magnification

20. Photo of Water Strider’s leg covered in small hydrophobic hairs. When observing the hairs closely, we see they are covered in small grooves, giving them their hydrophobic nature. A “comb” like structure of the exoskeleton can be seen near the joint. This is used to comb clean the hairs and keep the water striders afloat. The picture was taken with a scanning electron microscope at 120x magnification.

scallop eye

21. Scallops (family Pectinidae) have the most acute visual sensory organs of any bivalves. An individual scallop will usually have an array of 40-60 eyes along its mantel cavity, with some species possessing over one hundred! These eyes are capable of detecting the approach of predators, such as sea stars, sharks, and other fishes. They may also be used by swimming scallops to pick out favorable substrates to come to rest upon. This scallop was viewed live under a light microscope at 16x magnification. Image taken using an 8x digital camera.

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22. This was taken with 35 mm film. This cat was pregnant and being looked at anatomically for my Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy course. Thanks, Jason!

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23. A flowering shrub, seen at the historic Longwood Gardens

The 2012 Winners!

The Biology Department would like to extend a special thanks to all of the students who submitted photos and videos!

The judges picked a first and second prize, and chose 2 photos  for third place.

Each winner will receive a cash award from the Robert Savage Endowed fund, and all four winning photos will be artfully displayed in the halls of the Martin Biological Laboratory.

First Place:   Arabidopsis seedling cotyledon
submitted by Erin Kast, Erin Lowe, and Galen Rask

Second Place: globe thistle in Kos, Greece
submitted by Madeleine Booth

Tied for third place:

nub of an Arabidopsis plant
submitted by Elan Silberblatt-Buser

cichlid fish scale

cichlid fish scale
submitted by Eunice Hyunjo Park

The fourth annual Robert Savage Image Award submissions for 2012

Below are the submissions for The Swarthmore College Biology Department’s fourth annual Robert Savage Image Award. This year we received 18 entries (16 images and 2 videos). These images offer a range of subjects from microscopic images to the operating room.

Please click on a thumbnail to see a larger version of each photo or video, and check back here after the department picnic on May 2nd to find out the winners!

Confocal microscope image of stained cells in a Hirudo medicinalis ganglion. SCPb-like immunoreactive cells are stained in green, and FRMFamide-like immunoreactive cells are stained in red. Yellow indicates double staining.

Optic lobe of the developing Drosophila brain.  Molecular markers Dpn and PH3 show developing neurons (green) and dividing cells (red), respectively.  Yellow cells are cells expressing both Dpn and PH3; these are dividing neurons.

A pensive bird perched carefully on a fallen tree branch is shrouded in shadow as glimpses of light peek through the uneven canopy.  This photograph was taken at Lake Eacham in the Atherton Tablelands of Queensland Australia.

This photograph shows patterns in photosynthetic organisms influenced by agriculture around False Bay on San Juan Island, WA. A recently harvested field contrasts with vegetation surrounding a creek that enters the bay. The creek carries runoff from the surrounding fields, contributing to algal growth that appears to color the shallow water.

Lemon-sized, painless, calcified angioleiomyoma benign tumor located on a patient’s ankle for 15 years before removal. There was no recurrence at 6 month follow up. (The surgery was conducted by the father of the entrant)

Photo of a cichlid fish scale visualized with phase contrast microscopy.

Food groove of a mussel gill (Geukensia demissa) viewed under a scanning electron microscope.

This image of a small globe thistle, genus Echinops, was taken on the island of Kos, Greece, where it grew in the shade of the marina’s seawall. The thistles around it were in various stages of bloom, from perfect spheres of purple flowers  to orbs of spikes. Given the prickly yet aquatic beauty of the small globe thistle, it is appropriate that the Ancient Greek word ekhinos, the root of the genus’ name, means sea urchin.


This video depicts an Aiptasia pallida sea anemone with photosynthetic Symbiodinium bending toward a light source on the left. Half way through the video the light source is gradually turned off and the A. pallida returns to its original state. Music credit: Watermark by Enya.

This picture is of the trees behind Mertz in bloom a few weeks ago.

A surprising phenotype I observed in my mutant bob1-3; bom Arabidopsis plants. Instead of forming floral organs, this plant formed the beautiful nub seen in the lower-left section of the image. The plant attempted to form floral organs (seen in the lower-middle section of the image), but ultimately failed. This image was taken looking down on the plant from above using the Biology Department’s Z16 microscope suite.

This is an image of human sperm stained with Janus Green B, visualized with 1000X magnification in phase contrast.

Image of the tip of a spine from a Cylindropuntia fulgida var. fulgida.  Normally covered in a papery sheath, the barbed spine is sticking out.

The beautiful neuroarchitecture of a ganglion of the leech, Hirudo medicinalis, was vizualized using immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy. Red labeled and green labeled neuronal structures represent FMFRamide-like and SCPb-like immunoreactivity, respectively; yellow and orange labeled strucutres represent colocalization of the two.

This is a phase contrast image of a nematode taken from a compost pile sample.  I like the image because it shows a really clean view of nematode anatomy with the esophagus and esophageal bulb clearly visible.  In the process of examining this the nematode stopped moving and bacteria can be seen accumulating near one particular part of the nematode, toward the center of the image, but I don’t really know what interaction was taking place there.

Close up of one of many lysozyme-chloride-salt crystals found in a single lysozyme drop. Crystals were synthesized using the hanging drop/ vapor diffusion method and photgraphed in the Biochemistry Lab of Swarthmore College using a digital QX5 microscope.

Image of the cotyledon of a 7-day-old Arabidopsis seedling containing a GFP fusion to an unknown protein involved in stomate cell identity. Fluorescence microscopy was used to capture an image of reflected red light (from chloroplasts) and green light (from GFP fluorescence). Of particular interest are the stomates apparently floating outside the leaf – in fact, these stomates are situated on the ends of leaf epidermal cells that don’t contain chloroplasts and thus are not visible.


A leucistic American Robin (Turdus migratorius) that has frequented the lawn in front of Martin Hall. The bird just captured and eaten an earthworm, and has settled down for a minute of rest. It very inquisitvely looked around at me and others’ walking around nearby, before taking flight. The bird’s personality seems a bit bolder than the other robins- perhaps there is some level of connection between this and its leucistic condition?

The 2011 Winners!

It was a very tough decision, but the results are in. The judges picked a first and second prize, and two photos tied for third.

Special thanks to all of the students who submitted photos!

First Place: Emily MacDuffie ’13, Cape Daisy

Second Place: Camille Rogine ’11,  Arabidopsis Z stack

Tied for Third Place:

Elizabeth Cozart ’12,  Grapevine

and Natalie Campen ’14,  Nasturtium root

The Third Annual Savage Image Award 2011 Submissions

Below are the submissions for The Swarthmore College Biology Department’s third annual Robert Savage Image Award. We received 23 fantastic entries.

Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version of each photo or video, and check back here next week or come to the picnic to find out the winners!

1. This photograph was taken in Taebek, which used to be a mining town in Korea. The residue from an abandoned coal mine flows down to the creek and causes a thick layer white precipitate to form on the bottom of the creek. Some of the similar creeks are red from oxidization of this white precipitate.

2. Hundreds of spores dot the undersides of these leaves, most likely a variety of fern (Pteridophyta). Plants such as these use spores as a means of reproduction, instead of producing seeds or flowers. Taken in the conservatory at Longwood Gardens on the Bio 2 field trip.

3. This images captures the cauline leaf of an EMS mutagenized Arabidopsis family grown in a bobber background. The novel characteristic of this family, and demonstrated in this picture, is that trichomes appear on both the adaxial and abaxial sides of the leaf, whereas only the latter is representative of the wild-type phenotype.

4. The distribution of SCPb-like immunoreactive (SLI) and FMRFamide-like immunoreactive (FLI) cells and processes in a midbody leech Hirudo medicinalis ganglion. Green indicates SLI staining, red indicates FLI staining, and yellow indicates colabeling of both SLI and FLI. The image was visualized using confocal microscopy.

5. The beautiful colors of a Cape Daisy, Venidium fastuosum, with pollen-covered stamens. Photograph taken with a depth-of-field microscope.

6. This is an SEM longitudinal view of a snail shell, displaying the smooth bottom later of the shell and the microstructure of its crossed-lamellar layer.

7. Ripening fruit of Vitis vinifera, also known as the Common Grape Vine.  The light from the sun, shining down on the plant, provides energy for the ripening grapes. Photo taken at the gardens of Brucemore Mansion, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

8. While doing research in Alaska, I snapped this photo of these adorable Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) chicks begging for food. I’m sure they didn’t appreciate all the poking and prodding we subjected them to afterwards, but once we had our data we returned them all safely to their box. The whole nest fledged successfully a week or two later.

9. Rendered unrecognizable at a magnification of 2000x, this scanning electron micrograph depicts the wavelike compound cilia on a gill filament of a ribbed mussel (Geukensia).

10. Pictured are two ducks resting in Victoria Park, London.

11. Aphrodite’s Reincarnation (Phalaenopsis aphrodite)
Location:Longwood Gardens
This orchid is appropriately named since its overwhelming whiteness, accentuated by a small blotch of color, is almost seducing you to come closer.

12. Mesh of tubular sheaths made by the iron bacterium Leptothrix ochracea, which oxidizes iron and manganese to form an orange precipitate. This species is often the culprit behind clogged and rusted plumbing. Phase contrast micrograph at 400x magnification.

13. This is Simi, an adult female ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) and one of her babies from my study site at Berenty Reserve in southern Madagascar. Females are entirely responsible for parenting in L. catta. Simi had twins, which are very unusual and probably why she looks a little harried in this photo. Babies cling to their mothers from the moment they’re born until around three months of age. I chose this shot because her babies were especially rambunctious and full of life that day – they had begun spending some time off of Simi exploring their surroundings, but retreated to the safety of their mom when they saw my camera lens, something they were unfamiliar with. I also like that you can clearly see the baby’s hand and how similar it is to our own.

14. Saucer Magnolia (magnolia × soulangeana) flower showing floral organ development. Pollen can be seen on the stamens of the flower.

15. Confocal image depicting microtubule (green) patterning and chloroplast (red) autofluorescence in Arabidopsis hypocotyl cells.

16. This is a Golden Orb Weaver, a hand-sized spider that I encountered frequently during my stay in Australia. Although they are not one of the many Australian spiders that are dangerous to humans, they will trap and consume the occasional bird.

17. This is a confocal z-projection of a Drosophila larvae CNS. The cell(s) labeled green are octopaminergic, and was the only one of many cells to be activated by a heat shock. The background staining of purple is a neuropile/axonal tract staining.

18. This is an SEM image taken of a glass spicule in an amphidisk shape on a gemmule. Spicules form the “skeletons” of sponges, and even though many sponges have glass skeletons, the fragments are so small that sponges still feel squishy.

19. This is a confocal time-lapse video of a living heat-shocked Arabidopsis thaliana root expressing BOBBER1:GFP. Images were captured every 15 seconds for one hour and 41 minutes. Growth of the root, organelle dynamics, and movement of heat shock granules (bright green dots) are all visible. (click here for video)

20. This image comes from Martin’s extended depth of field microscope, and is essentially Z-stack of photos taken at several depths, compressed into one image where everything is in focus. What you see is an Arabidopsis mutant that was generated by a chemical mutagenesis, performed at Nick Kaplinsky’s lab over the summer. This mutant is especially interesting for its spiny meristem – what looks like a long lean backbone here is actually multiple failed attempts to make a flower. This particular mutant strain is connected to an ongoing investigation into developmental effects of BOBBER, a heat-shock protein in plants.

21. This is an image of a nasturtium root stained with TBO to show the vascular system of the root structure. The TBO stains the secondary structure a deep blue-purple color and the primary walls a pink color. The image was taken with a Z16 stereo microscope at at 2x magnification.

22. This is a nasturtium leaf at 40x magnification, grown for Plant Biology with Nick Kaplisnky. This image was part of a composite figure showing chlorophyll distribution between healthy and nutrient-starved leaves.

23. A flag-footed Anisocelis foleacea defends a passionflower (Passiflora trilby), its plant host, while a third-instar nymph of either the same species or the look-alike Holymena clavier searches for its next snack. Picture taken 3 miles west of Munichis, Peru, where speakers of Muniche, Shawi, Jebero, San Martin Quechua, and Spanish harvest maricuya, or passionfruit.

And The Winners Are…

First place: Susanna Mitro ’11 (#8)

2nd place: Natashia Weiser, Blaine O’Neill ’11, Uma Nagendra ’09 (#12)

3rd place: Wiley Archibald ’10 (#3)

4th place: Jen Spindel ’10 (#4)


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