VIMS announces winners of 2020 Photo Contest

  • Chasing the Light
      The sun rises over the Guinea Marshes along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.   © Wolfgang Vogelbein.
Photo - of -
New category commemorates COVID quarantine

Professor Wolfgang Vogelbein took home the grand prize in the Virginia Institute of Marine Science's annual photo contest for his stunning image of the sun rising over the Guinea Marshes along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

The contest, now in its 21st year, recognizes the most noteworthy images captured by VIMS faculty, students, and staff while conducting research in the field and laboratory.

Category Winners

As in year’s past, the selection committee awarded winners in categories best representing the most common types of images submitted during previous competitions. The committee is led by VIMS Publications Manager Sue Stein.

VIMS graduate student Alex Schneider examines a blue crab ovary under the microscope while wearing a mask to protect herself and others from COVID-19. © Andrew McKiernan.Contest organizers recognized a special category in 2020, highlighting photos that captured research and educational activities in the time of COVID-19. The winner in that category was a photo of masked microscopist Alex Schneider taken by Andrew McKiernan.

In the “People at Work” category, Ph.D. student Amanpreet Kohli clinched top prize with her photo of REU student Thalia Wallace during her first, exciting encounter with an American eel. REU student Thalia Wallace shows pure excitement as she “almost” holds her first eel. © Amanpreet Kohli.Wallace was aiding Kohli in her study of red disease among American eels in the Chesapeake Bay.

Paula Dye, a Laboratory & Research Aide in the Marine Advisory Program at VIMS, took first prize in the “Marine Life” category for her photo of a male oyster toadfish guarding his offspring within a display tank in the Visitor's Center at VIMS. A male oyster toadfish guards its eggs. © Paula Dye.Dye is an aquarist who spends countless hours maintaining the organisms in the aquaria at VIMS.

Andrew Corso, another Ph.D. student at VIMS, won the “Microscopic” category with his "Alien Invasion” photo. Taken during Corso's annual field trip to the Western Antarctic Peninsula as part of VIMS involvement in the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research Program, the photo shows a Hyperiidea amphipod in its natural habitat. Corso shared this and other photos with participating classrooms as part of an outreach program with educators from Rutgers University called Investigate and Discover (I.D.) Antarctica. The alien invader. © Andrew Corso."Young students from more than 100 schools globally correctly named the amphipod and learned about its biology and sensitivity to climate change while doing so," says Corso.

The winner in the "Seascape/Landscape/Scenic" category was  Jenny Dreyer, Research Manager in the VIMS Benthic Ecology Lab and the curator of the VIMS Invertebrate Collection. Yorktown from the water. © Jenny Dreyer.Titled “Yorktown from Across the Water,” it offers a lovely take on a scene that  will be familiar to anyone who frequents Gloucester Point.

Honorable Mentions

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

  • Andrew Corso – “Plastic Penguins”
  • Amanpreet Kohli – “Examining Eels for Parasites”
  • Alex Schneider – “Blue crab zoeae and egg sacks under a microscope”
  • Dick Snyder – “Xuqing Chen Collecting Juvenile Blue Crabs”
  • Wolfgang Vogelbein – “Once in a Lifetime Sunrise”
This year's contest saw fewer entries—93—than in previous years, likely due to the COVID quarantine, says Stein. "But the quality more than made up for the lower quantity," she adds. As in previous years, 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 also impressed by this year’s submissions and lauds the “thorough representation of both the lab and fieldwork undertaken by VIMS scientists here in Virginia and around the world.”

To view high-resolution versions of this year’s winning entries, scroll through our online gallery or visit the VIMS Flickr page at