PhD student Amanpreet Kohli took home grand prize in the Virginia Institute of Marine Science's annual photo contest for her striking black and white image of the Outer Banks’ Bodie Island Lighthouse.
The contest, now in its 22nd year, recognizes the most noteworthy images captured by VIMS faculty, students, and staff while in the field and laboratory.
As in years 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.
Contest organizers again recognized a special category for photos highlighting the continuing impacts of COVID on the institute’s research and educational activities. The winner in that category was Marine Education Specialist Celia Cackowski. Her photo “Outreach Goes Virtual” shows Tara Rudo, marine education specialist with CBNERR-VA, demonstrating a squid dissection over Zoom for high school students attending W&M's Camp Launch program.
In the People at Work category, PhD student Alexander Smith took top prize with his photo of fellow doctoral student Grace Molino emerging from a thick stand of Phragmites australis to measure the sunlight available to plant life using a PAR sensor (for photosynthetically active radiation). Molino’s mosquito net adds an unusual visual element, while also reflecting the rigors of saltmarsh field work. The pair were studying the status of a ghost forest near Deal’s Island in Maryland.
Winner in the Marine Life category was Reba Smith, a senior research scientist with VIMS’ Eastern Shore Laboratory in Wachapreague. Her “Bay Scallop Nursery” shows the vertical fins that scientists use to support tank-raised bay scallops as they mature through the early portion of their juvenile stage. The tank in her photo is being refilled so that all scallops will be resubmerged after they receive their daily rinse. The work is part of ESL’s continuing efforts to restore these tasty bivalves to the seaside bays of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
MS student Kristen Sharpe won the “Microscopic” category with her " Juvenile Dragonfish,” collected in a plankton net and photographed last May during the NASA-funded EXPORTS expedition to the northeast Atlantic Ocean. Sharpe says, “These deep-sea fishes use their bioluminescent barbel to lure prey to their mouth. Like many twilight-zone animals, they're vertical migrators that remain in the deep waters during the day and ascend to the surface at night to feed under cover of darkness.” “Despite its terror-inducing aesthetic,” she adds, “it's important to note that this animal was only 1.5 inches long.” Adult dragonfish can reach 6-10 inches.
The winner in the "Seascape/Landscape/Scenic" category was PhD student Grace Molino. Titled “Sunset from atop Coleman Bridge,” it captures the schooner Alliance and its curving wake as the historic vessels turns upriver towards the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station.
The selection committee also awarded six honorable mentions in this year’s contest.
- Nour Ayache – “Seagulls and their Footprints in the Snow”
- Kaitlyn Clark – “Sea Scallop Recruits”
- Amanpreet Kohli – “Plating Bacteria is Fun!”
- Eduardo Miles – “The Algae Tipis”
- Azizi Parker – “Stairway to Heaven”
- Wolfgang Vogelbein – “A River Painting”
This year's contest saw 132 entries, a 30-percent increase from last year’s COVID-limited contest. Stein says “The photos reveal the breadth of research and interests pursued by the VIMS community, and the great variety of geographic areas visited whether for work or play. Every year I look forward to seeing the different variety of photos submitted.”
As in previous years, staff in VIMS’ News & Media Services office use the submitted photos for publications, outreach materials, and website pages.