VIMS announces winners of 2017 Photo Contest

Entries capture wide focus of institute research activities

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science has announced the winners of its 18th annual photo contest, held to recognize the most notable images captured by VIMS faculty, students, and staff while conducting scientific studies in the field and laboratory. 

Caroline Failon took first prize with her photo researching the marshes near West Point, Virginia. Click for larger view.The winner of this year’s grand prize was William & Mary undergraduate Caroline Failon ’19, for an image showing her collecting a smooth cord grass plant in the estuarine marshes near West Point, Virginia. Failon, a Biology major and Mathematics minor, is an intern with VIMS professor David Johnson’s Global Change Ecology Lab group, which studies shallow and intertidal marine ecosystems. The photo depicts the sometimes “dirty” work that VIMS researchers undertake while in the field—in this case, Failon braving marsh mud to retrieve samples for fellow lab associate Serina Seibilan’s experiment. 

Category winners

For this year’s contest, the selection committee awarded winners in categories newly created to best represent the most popular types of images submitted during past competitions. The committee is led by VIMS Publications Manager Sue Stein.

Diego Biston Vas' photo of a color-enhanced oyster toadfish took first prize in the "Microscopic" category. Click for a larger view.In the “Microscopic” category, VIMS Ph.D. student Diego Biston Vas took top prize for his color-enhanced image of an oyster toadfish as viewed through a Zeiss microscope in VIMS’ Fisheries Anatomy Laboratory. Vas typically uses CAT scans to unlock the mysteries of toadfish anatomy, but for this image used a more traditional method that stains bones red and cartilage blue. Such techniques are used by researchers at fish collections around the world—including the Nunnally Ichthyology Collection at VIMS.

VIMS Laboratory & Research Aide Paula Dye took first prize in the “People at Work” category for her picture of graduate student Robert Isdell practicing his cast-net skills in the Ware River near Gloucester Courthouse. Isdell, a Ph.D. student advised by VIMS professors Donna Bilkovic and Carl Hershner, studies the interactions between humans and the environment throughout Chesapeake Bay.

Alynda Miller's photo of an Speckled Crab along the Hatteras Island coastline won the "Marine Life" category prize. Click for a larger view.Alynda Miller, a lab & research specialist with the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve at VIMS, got the nod in the “Marine Life” category for her picture of an Speckled Crab (Arenaeus cribrarius) along the Hatteras Island coastline in North Carolina, while VIMS professor Mary Fabrizio’s photo of a sunrise over the York River received the “Seascape/Landscape/Scenic” category prize.

Honorable mentions

The selection committee also awarded four honorable mentions in this year’s contest.

  • Jenny Dreyer—Calm day along Chesapeake Bay
  • Lisa Kellogg—Eclipse watching aboard the R/V Osprey
  • Gail Schwieterman—Clearnose skates (Raja eglanteria) in the lab
  • Rochelle Seitz—Oysters in Wachapreague

According to Stein, the large number of captivating images in this year’s contest made it difficult to choose the winners. “I was impressed with the different landscapes and subjects captured by this year’s participants and greatly appreciate their efforts,” she says. Staff in VIMS’ News & Media Services office use the submitted photos for publications, outreach materials, and website pages. 

VIMS Dean and Director John Wells says he was impressed by this year’s entries and commends the “great representation of the breadth and scope of both lab and fieldwork undertaken by VIMS scientists both locally and globally.”

To view high-resolution versions of this year’s winning entries, visit the VIMS Flickr page at