The 2016 Submissions

The Swarthmore College Biology Department received 18 submissions for the 8th annual Robert Savage Image Award and we are pleased to present them here.

The winners were announced at the Biology Department picnic on May 3.

(Click each image to view a larger version)

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1 Rachel Boone (VIDEO)

Aimed exposure to an infrared laser upon a one week old Arabidopsis thaliana cotyledon gives rise to a localized ring of GFP expression. This GFP expression is used a reporter for the heat shock response. (click here for video)


2 Tymoteusz Alan Chrzanowski

Dyed stone cells from an anjous pear (Pyrus communis).


3 Hali Han

I took this image on the Bio 002 trip to Longwood Gardens mainly with the intent of replacing the default wallpaper on my phone. However, my attempt to pin down the exact species name for the purposes of this caption led to a long chain of enlightening yet inconclusive research. What I have pinned down is that this plant pictured above most likely belongs to the bromeliaceae family, a family of monocot herbaceous plants mainly found in the tropics of South America with the distinguishing features of a tight overlapping leaf base structure that can store water (which can be seen above) as well as the ability to perform crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) photosynthesis to conserve water.


4 Abigail Wong-Rolle

This picture of a sea anemone, Aiptasia pallida, with symbionts was taken accidentally during a Bio II lab. The light reflecting through the beaker makes the anemone look luminous. Anemones with symbionts benefit from sugars produced by its photosynthetic dinoflagellates and provide symbionts protection, shelter and resources. A. pallida with symbiotic Symbodinium sp. exhibit positive phototaxis.


5 David Tian

This is an image of the edge of a freshwater swamp mostly made up of black oak and pitch pine. Sunlight illuminates submerged and decomposing leaves in an otherwise densely shaded area. I came across this small swamp while hitchhiking to one of my field sites along the coast of Vineyard Sound during my time at the Marine Biological Laboratory. Taken with a Nikon D3300. 


6 Vivek Ramanan ’18

This photo was taken in the Kohlberg gardens, just when the flowers were beginning to bloom. I really wanted to focus on the pollen close up so I used my iPhone and a macrolens to take the photo! I was so excited to see that the pollen was so focused that you can see the sharp edges on the center of the flower.


7 Alexandra Rabin

This is an anemone, visualized with a dissecting microscope at 10x magnification. The brown spots are symbiotic organisms living within the anemone’s tentacles! The organisms have evolved to live as symbionts, and it may be interesting to study the effects of the symbionts on the anemones, especially because anemones are a crucial part of coral reefs and therefore affected by rising levels of coral bleaching. 


8 Sierra Spencer

This is an image of two brother Amur tigers, Wiz and Dimitri, wrestling at the Philadelphia Zoo. Over this past summer, I was an Environmental Education and Animal Behavior intern, and conducted research on how Amur tigers’ activity levels varied based on temperature, weather, and time of day. I wanted to give guests information that could help them view these amazing animals when they are active, since two tigers wrestling sparks greater interest in their conservation than two tigers napping in the corner of their exhibit.


9 Liting Chen ’16


I took this picture of a Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) flower at Longwood Gardens two years ago. I decided to zoom in at the center of the flower instead of the petals because 1) for flowers with bright colors and large petals, the center of the flower does not usually get much attention and 2) it signifies the mysterious number “5” hidden in nature.


10 Saadiq Garba ’19 & Nick Ambiel ’19

This picture features a Tardigrade, also known as a water bear, under bright-field microscopy. The Tardigrade has the unique ability to survive extreme pressure and temperature conditions as well as endure for many years without food or water. This extremophile vitrifies itself by attaching sugars to its outer membrane to withstand the extraordinary circumstances in which it can be found.


11 Iris Chan

A sea anemone (Aiptasia pallida) slowly waving its tentacles under a brightfield microscope. Within the coral reef ecosystem, sea anemones form a symbiotic relationship with their dinoflagellate symbionts that is crucial to maintaining biodiversity. This image was taken during my research over the summer with Professor Vallen.


12 Leela Breitman


This is a dissecting microscope image of a Scallop. It reveals the complex beauty of the invertebrate’s mantel, replete with sensory tentacles and image forming “cup” eyes, as well as the beauty of its ribbed, multicolored shell. 



The native but extraterrestrial-appearing skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) spathe curls amidst a carpet of invasive but unassuming lesser celandine (Ficaria verna). The spathe shelters the spadix, a small knob covered in tiny flowers. Skunk cabbage is abundant in the Crum Woods and thrives in wetland areas on the bank of the Crum Creek.  


14 Talia Borofsky


A European Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, uses its sting to defend the colony from small hive beetles, which parasitize bee colonies. The small hive beetle is an invasive species from Africa. There, honey bees and beetles have evolved a balance such that the beetles do not significantly damage colonies (Ellis and Hepburn 2006).  However, as Torto et al. (2007) discovered, European honey bees do not effectively defend themselves from small hive beetles. When a bee encounters an invader, it releases alarm pheromone. A. mellifera are less sensitive to alarm volatiles than their African counterparts, and will only stage a mass attack against an invader once the amount of alarm volatiles reach a certain level. The beetles are very sensitive to the volatiles and actually attracted to them (Torto et al. 2007). By the time alarm pheromone levels are high enough for the colony to detect and respond with a mass attack, it is already infested with beetles. If the colony is already stressed, beetles can evade attack and feed on the colony’s food stores.


15 Jaeheon Kim

This is a photo of frost crystals forming on the leaves of a coniferous tree. It was taken at the top of Hallasan Mountain (한라산) in Jeju Island (재주도) of South Korea during winter using an iPhone 6.


16 Victor T Le

This is an image of male honey bees (Apis mellifera) or drones emerging from drone cells removed from the observation hive in Rachel’s lab. Drones are laid and emerge in the spring and have only one role: to mate with new honey bee queens. They also, fortunately for me, do not have stingers.


17 Sophia Frantz

Shown here are terminal cells of the Drosophila tracheal system. Each terminal cell undergoes an intricate and beautiful developmental process, forming extensive branches and a lumen, or tube, throughout each branch. The cell’s form allows for the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. To study the role of the cytoskeleton in this developmental process I have visualized the stable microtubules (shown in green) and the lumen (outlined in magenta) using confocal microscopy. 

Imaris Snapshot

18 Karl Palmquist

This image depicts a Ciona intestinalis juvenile. It was taken using confocal microscopy and stained for actin (white) and electroporated with a heart cell specific histone marker (magenta). The image was taken at 10x magnification with 5x zoom.


19 Amy Amuquandoh & Maxine Annoy

Crum Creek Leech: Z stack image of posterior sucker musculature. Turn over some rocks in the creek, and eventually you’ll find a leech! These leeches aren’t out for your blood; they feed exclusively on aquatic invertebrates. The posterior sucker acts as a powerful anchor for their inchworm like movement.


20 Elizabeth Flores


With the help of a dissecting microscope I was able to capture an image of two sea anemone as friendly neighbors. These A. pallida are housed and cared for by the Swarthmore College Department of Biology for student and faculty research. A. pallida are a key model organism that have aided researchers in gaining a better understanding of the relationship between dinoflagellates and their hosts.  The implications of this type of research is vital to understanding the relationship between dinoflagellates and their host anemones, making it possible to better comprehend the negative bleaching processes that coral undergo in precious marine ecosystem.


21 Richard Vu

The flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, exhibits its showy flowers under daytime illumination. Instead of petals, the flowering dogwood has pink, petal-like bracts that surround its numerous little greenish-yellow flowers.


22 Amanda Chan


Moon jelly (Aurelia aurita) photographed in the New England Aquarium, Boston. As adults, these ethereal-looking Cnidarians live less than a year. In the center of the jellyfish’s bell, the pattern composed of four circles is its gonads.


23 Alden Dirks

Tardigrades are microscopic aquatic organisms that inhabit moss and lichen and have the amazing ability to survive extreme conditions such as outer space. I collected this tardigrade from a local moss patch and visualized it using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). This image shows the ventral side (belly) of the tardigrade; note the tardigrade’s pharynx used to eat other microscopic prey and its four pairs of grasping claws. The dehydration process required for SEM probably made this tardigrade collapse in on itself, resulting in an abnormally wrinkly and folded sample.


24 Anna Bigney

An Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) crossing the road


25 Lesia Liao

Presynaptic larval motor neurons and muscle side of the neuromuscular junction in 3rd instar Drosophila melanogaster. One can see where the motor neurons (green) make synapses with the muscle fibers (red). Notice the repetition of the neurons’ morphology with their long axons as well as the delicate branching patterns of their dendrites. The two main axon projections are clearly innervating motor muscles in the larvae in regular vertical segments. Image obtained using confocal microscopy. 


26 Rebecca Mayeda

Intricate patterning of a washed-up pufferfish.




The 2015 Submissions

The Swarthmore College Biology Department received 18 submissions for the seventh annual Robert Savage Image Award and we are pleased to present them here.

We will announce the winners at the Biology Department Picnic on Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

(Click each image to view a larger version).

1. “Fireflies: Drosophila at Sunset” One evening, I was working in Jodi’s lab and happened to glance over at the bottles of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) lined up on the counter. The sun was just going down, and they were glowing!  I couldn’t help but snap a photo.

1. “Fireflies: Drosophila at Sunset”
One evening, I was working in Jodi’s lab and happened to glance over at the bottles of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) lined up on the counter. The sun was just going down, and they were glowing! I couldn’t help but snap a photo.


2. This is an image of a Nudibranch feeding on marine debris on Michaelmas Cay in the Great Barrier Reef. The picture was taken with a GoPro at a depth of twenty-two meters on one of my dive trips during my study abroad semester in Townsville, Australia.


3. I captured this image of these young daffodils, sometimes called Narcissus flowers, at Longwood Gardens. You can’t see it, but these small flowers contain toxic fluid and crystals which prevent animals from eating the flower and will harm other plants that the liquid comes into contact with.


4. Capture of 4-day-old Arabidopsis thaliana plants and seeds arranged in a double helix following a one hour exposure to high temperature stress. These plants contain a construct which results in the expression of GFP whenever the ubiquitous heat shock response protein Hsp17.6 is transcribed. Fluorescence microscopy was used to capture an image of reflected red light (from chloroplast auto-fluoresence), green light (from GFP fluorescence) and yellow light (from seed coat auto-fluorescence). Cotyledons stand as nitrogen bases, roots as deoxyribose, and seeds as the phosphate groups that together constitute the DNA of all living organisms. Of interest is the central plant shining brighter than all the rest: much like the unique single nucleotide it artistically signifies, this plant contains in every one of its cells a single nucleotide substitution in its fourth chromosome which results in a universal heat shock response protein (and thus also GFP) over-expression phenotype. For both this image and this plant, the change of a single base-pair has made all the difference.


5. Queen Anne’s Lace, a biennial of the carrot family that originated from Europe, in two stages of development. Structural changes occur after pollination by insects, as the fruiting umbels and stems curve inward to form a concave complex, commonly known as the “Bird’s Nest”. The fruits, which can be seen as yellow beads in the “Bird’s Nest”, are known as schizocarps and eventually divide into two seeds. The bristles aid in dispersal by clinging to the fur of passing animals. Photo taken in late August, 2014.


6. When disturbed, an Aiptasia pallida anemone scrunches in its tentacles and produces a nebula of mucus around its stalk. This anemone was photographed using a stereoscope.


7. Tears of Lysozyme Biochemists shine X-rays on protein crystals in order to learn about protein structure. Proteins, however, are notoriously fickle when it comes to crystal formation. Crystallographers have to sample a variety of different salts and salt concentrations in order to induce a crystal. The crystal structure varies widely based on the conditions used and can often form surprisingly complex shapes, such as this seashell-like form produced by lysozyme in a 1.5% sodium iodine solution.


8. This photo was taken during a field trip to Longwood Gardens with a tour group of Biology 002 students. This sunny walkway is known as the “Acacia Passage”, and the walls and ceilings are adorned with some of nature’s most beautiful plant life.


9. Close-up photograph of the inside of a Magnolia flower in early Spring of 2015. The center has pollen brushed around the stamen of the flower delicately. The photo was taken spontaneously because the flower was opened widely and I used a MicroLens on my phone, which was able to focus on the tiny particles of pollen. I tried to capture the full essence of the center of a flower, which is normally less photographed than the flower or tree itself.


10. This is a venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), which is a carnivorous plant native to the East Coast, and a threatened species. It was taken at Longwood Gardens with my Canon Rebel t2i.


11. The red eft pictured here is the juvenile stage of the eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), also known as the red spotted newt. As larva, eastern newts breathe through gills and remain submerged at all times but they lose their gills as they transform to their juvenile eft stage and move onto land. After a few years, the adult newt moves back to the water and develops a rudder-like tail which, along with its mature green body, is perfectly suited for aquatic life. In communities surrounded by water year round, larvae transition directly to adult newts and the juvenile eft stage can be skipped. The dramatic transformation and flexibility of the eastern newt is one of nature’s foremost examples of metamorphic plasticity.


12. European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera). Medford, MA. This honey bee has been marked with a pink fluorescent powder so that researchers can identify her as they evaluate the foraging preferences of workers in the field. The colored powder allows biologists to explore the relationship between colony health and nutrition by comparing the diets of workers to the success of their home hives. Here, a worker rests from a long day of foraging flights.


13. A southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) from Queensland, Australia. While it cannot fly, the southern cassowary has powerful legs and has been known to kick the occasional human who ventures too close. This photo was taken at The Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas.


14. The photo was taken this February in the Crum Woods. It captures a leaf frozen in time and space on the surface of the Crum Creek. Surrounded the half submerged leaf are crystalized air bubbles in the ice.


15. This little fellow is a male California Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) perched up on the branches of a red fir tree in Yosemite National Park. He keeps a close eye on the humans right below his nest as they tramp through the undergrowth in search of owl pellets. His gaze occasionally flits to the female and a pair of fledglings nearby.


16. This is a grayscale image of a St. 31 Ciona intestinalis embryo using confocal microscopy. Ciona is a chordate used in developmental biology research. Embryos were developed to the late adhesion stage (St. 31) and stained using Phalloidin (alexis 635).


17. A maple leaf changing colors in the fall, with the last streaks of chlorophyll highlighting the veins and the brilliant red of anthocyanins and carotenoids starting to show. “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”-Albert Camus. Taken fall 2013, Kettunen Center, MI


18. This photo was taken using a bright field microscope during the process of establishing Köhler illumination on a sample of Aspergillus (stained blue; Carolina #B223). The photo was taken with a NEX-5.

The 2014 Submissions are here!



1. Oral disk (~1.5mm diameter) and tentacles of an Aiptasia pallida anemone. A. pallida tissue contains symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae which photosynthesize and provide nutrients for their host anemone. Zooxanthellae autofluoresce when excited, and appear red in this image. Green banding on the tentacles is tissue expressing GFP, fluorescing green here. As the image was taken, the anemone began to wake up from anesthesia and started waving its tentacles around, the motion of which can be seen at the tips of the tentacles. Image taken with with CCD camera attachment to Leica MZ16F fluorescence dissection scope using GFP filter.


2. This is a photograph of a magnolia tree in the Ben West parking lot, taken on a rainy spring day in 2012.


3 This photo was taken with a Nikon P7000 two summers ago during a family vacation at the Thuya Gardens near Northeast Harbor, Maine. The subject is a honey bee pollinating a flower. When the photo was taken, late August, the garden was in full bloom and the air was literally full of honey bees. It took several attempts and a great deal of patience, but I was finally able to get a non-blurry closeup of a bee.



4 I took this photo during a brightfield microscopy session in my cell bio lab. It features an anemone (aiptasia pallida) and its dinoflagellate symbionts.


5 This is a Stargazer Lily, a type of oriental hybrid of lily, found at Longwood Gardens. This plant is an angiosperm (flowering plant) and this image shows the stamen, containing pollen, and the stigma, which receives the pollen and leads to the ovaries. These lilies produce a beautiful smell and contain elaborate coloring, likely to attract pollinators to the flower to pollinate the plant.


6 An Australian Pig-nosed turtle, Carettochelys insculpta, examines a blue berry. Pig-noses are the last extant members of the genus Carettochelys. Found only in Australia and New Guinea, Pig-noses are very different from other species of turtles. Their name comes from their pig-like nostrils, which act like snorkels for the aquatic turtle and house sensory organs to aid with hunting. The Pig-nosed turtle has full flippers resembling those of sea turtles rather than the webbed feet of its freshwater counterparts and is an agile swimmer. Its carapace is soft and leathery with a skin-covered plastron below.


7 This image captures the textural depth and iridescence of the nacre-coated inner shell of Haliotis (Abalone), a marine gastropod mollusk. Colloquially known as “mother of pearl,” nacre is secreted by the Abalone’s epithelial cells and acts as a mechanism of defense, entombing invaders such as parasites and debris in a process called encystation. The iridescence characteristic of nacre stems from light diffraction and interference.


8 A sea anemone specimen, order Actiniaria, at the Birch Aquarium, San Diego, California. Actiniaria lack the medusa phase of many other Cnidarians, but do posses the nematocysts (stinging cells) characteristic of the phylum.


9 The surface of the leaf of a Delosperma floribunda ‘Stardust’ plant, a succulent native to southern Africa. The translucent beads on the surface of the leaf are not drops of water – rather they are small liquid-filled globules that are part of the plant and likely act as lenses to focus light onto the chloroplasts that are visible directly underneath. This image was taken with a brightfield microscope.


10 This is an image I captured in the summer of 2013 at Friday Harbor Laboratories of two polyps of the sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima. My research is focused on the aggressive response that this clonal anemone mounts against nonclonemates. In this image, I have placed two nonclonemates together in a small aquarium and we can see their feeding tentacles beginning to touch. This tentacular stimulation can incite an anemone to either retreat or mount an aggressive response by inflating the specialized battle tenatcles, the acrorhagi, that are densely-packed with toxic nematocysts.


11 Littorina irrorata (marsh periwinkle) on spartina (cord grass) taken on Shackleford Banks, North Carolina. Though quite tiny, this sea snail is fascinating since it is believed to be a fungus farmer. With its radulla, this snail scratches the algae on the plant stem and then defecates in this area, encouraging the growth of fungi. This fungi is the main source of food for littorina.
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12 This image displays the inside of the opened seed of ipomoea alba, commonly known as the Moon Vine. This garden vine is most well known for its large white flowers which open only in the evening. The seed is marked by its thick seed coat surrounding tightly wrapped cotyledons, which will become the first leaves of the plant. This photo was taken with a dissecting scope. The scale bar marks a length of 1 millimeter.

13 This photo depicts a Euryops pectinatus from Longwood Gardens in my palm.


14 This is a picture of the surface of Leptosynapta clarki obtained with a scanning electron microscope. L. clakri is a small burrowing sea cucumber found in False Bay, San Juan Island, Wa. Unlike a typical sea cucumber, L. clarki does not have tube feet and has a smooth body wall, which gives L. clarki a vermiform look.

15 This is a photograph of an Aiptasia pallida anemone, as seen through a compound light microscope. Photo was taken with an iPhone camera.

16 VIDEO: A Ciona intestinalis embryo 14 hours after fertilization, stained using a Phalloidin toxin. The embryo and its developing neural structures were viewed using confocal microscopy. (click here for video)


17 This Impatiens walleriana plant was grown as a morphology project for Plant Biology. Its new buds are just beginning to blush pink, foreshadowing the vibrant pink pigment that will accumulate in mature flowers. On the largest bud, the hooked nectary extends downward. It is from this nectary that the flower will secrete excess sugars in the form of sweet sugar water, which may attract pollinators (and pests!). Also visible in the foreground is the violet speckled underside of the Impatiens leaves. This contrasts with the relatively smooth green–interrupted only by a dusting of trichomes–of the top surface of the leaves.


18 I took this picture when visiting Longwood Gardens on the 16th of April 2014 with my Biology 02 class. You can see beautiful little florettes in the middle of this purple and white flower.

19 Confocal max projection of dorsal-side abdominal musculature treated with fluorescent Cy3 labeled anti-HRP (red), anti-DLG, and fluorescent Alexa488 labeled GAM (green). There appears to be six or seven NMJs labeled in the image, which have similar branching patterns of the presynaptic axon terminals innervating the muscles (appear parallel to one another). The postsynaptic membrane of the muscle envelops the motor neuron terminals, which is shown by the stereotyped “beads-on-a-chain” pattern of boutons. The boutons contain presynaptic neural tissue on the inside (red) with postsynaptic scaffold protein DLG on the outside (green). The boutons, which release glutamate, the primary excitatory transmitter at the larval NMJ, appear to be approximately the same size in each of the NMJs. Image is 20x objective with zoom factor 3. Scale bar = 100 mm.


20 Cross section of a tentacle from Aiptasia pallida captured with electron microscopy. This image clearly shows the two dermal layers, the ectoderm and the endoderm, being separated by the mesoglea, a layer of extracellular matrix, along with the anemone’s endosymbiont, Symbiodinium.

21 Sea Nettles (Chrysaora fuscescens) are native to the East Pacific Ocean, from Canada to Mexico. These jellyfish can grow to be 1 meter across, but they tend to remain smaller than 50cm. This photo was taken at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

22 Symbiotic Relationships on the Steppe. My host father, a nomadic herder from Bayankhongor Aimag, uses an uurga to herd his sheep and goats in April. Mongolia’s continental climate poses a unique challenge to both nomads (who constitute roughly 30% of the country’s population) and herd animals with extreme high and low temperatures, as well as frequent droughts and dzuds (intense winter conditions). According to my host father, a changing climate is responsible for decreased precipitation, desertification, and the disappearance of many streams in his soum (county).


23 These are purple bell flowers taken by my iPhone 5.


24 Male greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)taken at the Garden Route Game Lodge in Albertinia, South Africa.  The greater kudu is a species of woodland antelope found throughout Eastern and Southern Africa.


25 The image is a close up of CaCl2 salt crystals found in a single lysozyme drop. The crystals were synthesized using the hanging drop and vapor diffusion method, then photgraphed in the Biochemistry Lab of Swarthmore College using a digital QX5 microscope.


26 Green is good for the eyes, and a flower is a jubilant surprise.


27 a rose from our rose garden here at Swarthmore. I took it the morning
after a rain and thought it looked good. I realize it isn’t the most scientific or biological
picture but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to submit it anyway.


28 A 5µm section of the symbiotic anemone Aiptasia pallida. The specimen has been paraffin embedded, sectioned, and stained with Masson’s Trichrome Stain. The collagen is stained blue, the cytoplasm and muscle pink, and the nuclei black. The extracellular matrix, or mesoglea, is stained blue between the two cell layers, the ectoderm and gatroderm. In this particular section the hollow body column is filled with acontia, the threadlike defensive organs filled with explosive cnidocyte cells. The stained section was visualized using bright field microscopy.
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29 a photo I took of a sea anemone through the microscope!


30 This is an anther from an Ipomoea purpurea (Morning Glory) flower of the ‘President Tyler’ variety in full bloom. This image was taken with an extended depth-of-field microscope on a glass slide.


31 VIDEO: Captured here are two species of bees collecting nectar. Some of these bees are true pollinators–they feed through the natural opening of the flower and potentially gather or unload pollen. Other bees pictured are “nectar robbers”, and instead extract nectar from a hole they poke in the base of the flower. This can allow them to feed on a wider variety of flowers, but generally does not result in pollination. (click here for video)


32 Three Italian honey bees drinking honey water. The picture was taken inside one of the Environmental Studies research project bee hives.


33 This is a member of the Gerridae family of bugs, more commonly known as water striders or water bugs. These bugs have more than one thousand hydrophobic microhairs per mm on their body, protecting them from splashes of water and giving them their namesake ability to walk on water. This one was found during springtime in the Crum.


34 Oriental paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) photographed on Swarthmore College’s campus. The plant’s bark is a source of high quality paper which gives the plant its English name, paper bush.


35 Shown here is a detail of the interior of an Abalone shell. The iridescent pattern is produced by the nacre, an organo-mineral composite comprised primarily of alternating layers of aragonite pseudohexagonal tablets and organic matrix secreted by the epithelial cells of the mantle tissue. Nacre coats the interior shell of bivalves, gastropods, and cephalopods and serves as a defense against parasites and debris.



36 California is depleting its water sources at an unsustainable rate.” The most piercing, motivating thing can become dull when you hear it over and over. We still have to prompt ourselves, in a different vocabulary. This image was taken during a river clean-up effort of the Ventura River over spring break 2014, in a place where the rapid current once incessantly pulled at the now ghostly algae threaded around the rocks.



37 The front leg of a water strider from Crum Creek. Water striders are slender, dark colored insects of the family Gerridae, that can be seen on the surfaces of ponds, streams, and marshes throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Water striders’ hairy legs increase the total amount of displaced fluid by increasing the surface area that makes contact with the water. The claws of the front legs, shown in this picture, allow the water strider to dig into the water and pull themselves across the surface. This picture was taken with a scanning electron microscope at 120x magnification.


38 Hsp17.6 expression in 37°C heat shocked Arabidopsis root. The RootScope, an automated fluorescent microscope built by the Kaplinsky lab, was used to collect images and quantitate Hsp17.6p:GFP response in Arabidopsis seedlings to measure heat shock response over time.

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.

22AD copy

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!

longwood gardens

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?


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