Wikipedia:Wiki Science Competition 2021 in the United States/Results

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in the United States

The 2021 Wiki Science Competition in the United States announces its national finalists, all of which will advance to the international phase of the competition. The Wiki Science Competition is an international science photography competition first organized in Estonia, expanding in 2015 to all of Europe, and in 2017 to the rest of the world. The U.S. branch of the competition was organized by Wikimedia District of Columbia.

Participants uploaded their submissions during November and December 2021. The U.S. competition received 391 contributions across seven categories. These included 142 images of wildlife, 34 microscopy images, 24 non-photographic and video submissions, 7 images of people in science, 90 general category images, and 52 images as part of sets. The jury selected up to seven winners in each category to represent the United States at the international level. Of the 33 awardees, only 7 had previous contributions to Wikimedia Commons. In addition, the panels selected five submissions as "Jury's Choice" awards, each of which receives a $200 prize from Wikimedia District of Columbia.

Thanks to our volunteer judges for their efforts. The jury for the U.S. competition is listed below.

Jury's Choice Award winners[edit]

Verne Lehmberg is honored for Sticky geranium anther. This image of a sticky geranium anther was compiled from 110 separate images, and shows the pollen shape being released by the anther.

This photo of a sticky geranium anther with pollen was made to illustrate flower parts, as part of an update to an environmental science lab manual I wrote, and I decided to let others use it via Wikipedia.

A series of 130 individual photos were taken by keeping the camera and bellows mounted Zeiss Luminar 20mm lens stationary and manually moving the anther, which was mounted on an old microscope stage. The photos were stacked using the Helicon Focus program. I started using this setup for photographing small insects such as mayflies and caddisflies, but have found focus stacking useful for many situations other than macro. Stacking landscape photos yields foreground and distant objects sharp.

Ram Samudrala is honored for Jellyfish Nebula, where data collected over two years reveals the supernova remnant interacting with the molecular clouds surrounding it, seemingly as though it is striking them with bolts of lightning. Three more of his images, Heart Nebula, Sharpless 216, and NGC 7822, were also selected as national finalists.

Since as far back as I can remember, I've been interested in the stars, and some of my earliest memories are of looking up at the skies and asking "why" as kids do. This is what led to me being a scientist. I chose a field other than astrophysics, but since age 7, when I got my first telescope, I've been an amateur astronomer.  In 1986, when Halley's Comet was visible, I was 13 and I learned to build my own reflecting telescope at that time, but technology wasn't good enough to capture images of what I saw, which I wished I could.

I was a poor student in college so my hobby took a back seat, but once I began my professional career, I started using my disposable income to buy a lot of telescopes and technology finally caught up to enable amateurs to produce amazing images. All this took off in high gear when we moved to rural western New York on Lake Ontario in 2014, which has fairly dark skies. It was a few years of getting progressively better, but in 2020 I was able to produce some of my best images ever, which I submitted to the Wiki Science Competition.

The Jellyfish nebula (IC443) is the name given to a galactic supernova remnant situated in the constellation Gemini about 5000 light years from Earth. In this image, the remains of a supernova that exploded prior to the dawn of the Julian and Gregorian calendars is coincidentally bookended by two bright stars in the frame. The narrowfield framing (S2, Ha, and O3 elements in red, blue, green) shows the partial shell of supernova remnant with its distinctive Jellyfish shape in the bottom right quadrant interacting with the molecular clouds surrounding it above and to the left, seemingly as though it is striking them with bolts of lightning. The interactions of the remnant with its surroundings all around are what give rise to its eponymous shape.

Ram Samudrala is Professor and Chief of the Division of Bioinformatics at the University at Buffalo researching multiscale modelling of protein and proteome structure, function, interaction, design, and evolution at multiple scales.

Linda Eyster is honored for two photographs. Fly laying eggs at a recently deceased chipmunk shows an example of female flies laying their eggs in moist locations appropriate for their eggs to turn into larvae, and for those larvae to grow and develop. The eggs will develop into maggots, which can feed on the protein-rich flesh of the chipmunk before pupating. Mantis eating a bee shows a mantis Tenodera sinensis eating a bee it just ambushed.

I am a retired biologist with a lifelong interest in organismal biology and photography. During research for my Master’s degree on the Atlantic distribution and reproduction of nudibranchs, I needed to photograph the sea slugs before preserving them, because their colors can fade quickly. It was then that I bought my first macro lens, and I was hooked. Beginning in 2011, I used a macro lens to photographically document the diversity of arthropods that I found in my small New England garden, which is the size of a classroom.  I photographed the arthropods opportunistically for a decade, just for fun.  All of them were photographed unrestrained and unharmed, wherever they were found, using only natural light.

The chipmunk was recently killed by a cat. Although I could not smell the dead chipmunk, an abundance and a variety of flies soon arrived and fed on it. With my camera and macro lens in hand, I hunched patiently on the ground next to the chipmunk and watched for moments to photograph. Fly eggs, which look like rice grains in the photo, are laid in moist locations suitable for growth and development. In this image, I captured a fly with her ovipositor extended, in the act of depositing eggs into the moist mouth of the chipmunk carcass.

The mantis must have ambushed its prey just before I saw it, as the bee was still mostly intact. The jumble of plants and the wall of a building behind the mantis were visually distracting, so to get an image with a clean background, I slowly crawled through the vegetation to the opposite side of the insect. In my new position, I photographed the insect with back lighting and using a macro lens. And because I was then shooting towards shadows, I captured an image with a plain, dark background.

Images from Looking Closely: My Garden have been exhibited in a variety of venues in Massachusetts including public libraries, schools, nursing homes, nature centers, and wildlife sanctuaries. Knowing that one of my primary goals is to inspire people everywhere to look more closely at nature and having seen some of my macro photographs, my brother suggested that I contribute to Wikimedia Commons as part of this competition.

Benjamin Inouye is honored for Milky Way at Joshua Tree, an early-season image of the Milky Way from the dark site closest to Los Angeles. Two more of his images, Comet NEOWISE and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at night, were also selected as national finalists.

Growing up on the Big Island of Hawaii, I have always had an appreciation for the night sky and as I got older, with the support of friends, Youtube, and Wikipedia, I learned that these images could be had by my own effort. I started slowly and with a lot of luck, driving out to the desert for a weekend of camping with my wife and my two dogs, fell in love with the whole experience. We now spend every new moon weekend of the late spring through early fall out in the desert or up in the mountains camping, taking pictures of the heavens, enjoying the wilderness, and sitting by the fire together. Even if a weekend doesn't produce anything worth sharing, it's always a weekend well spent.

Milky Way at Joshua Tree was the result of a last minute, late night drive out to Joshua Tree from our home in Pasadena. It was early in the season so the galactic core rose late in the evening; we packed up the car with the pups, found an isolated area of the park and started shooting. I had rambled out through the scrub brush for several hundred yards to a point where the foreground and sky seemed in sync. I really fell in love with this shot myself because of the way the varying depths of the objects in the foreground caused the shot to flow with the sky gently from lower right to upper left. I submitted this shot hoping to inspire those people living in the glowing lights of a metropolis to spend a few hours getting out of town to see what darkness can let them see.

Bavand Keshavarz is honored for two image sets. Rolling around a spinning top visualizes the flow around a spinning top as it rotates inside a liquid, showing how the injected dye gradually gets trapped inside the spiral of toroidal vortices. Fluid droplet jets shows high-speed photography of patterns of droplets formed from two colliding water jets, forming patterns reminiscent of a Christmas tree, fishbones, and hearts.

I am a post-doctoral lecturer/researcher in the department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. My research interests are in the areas of soft matter mechanics and fluid dynamics. Visualization of fluid phenomena is a great passion of mine. I often think about ideas that can help me visualize the hidden fluid patterns that are around us in our daily life but are either too fast or too subtle for us to notice. When a small water jet breaks up into individual droplets or collides into another jet the phenomenon happens in few microseconds which is too fast for human vision. Similarly, when we use a mixer and mix a liquid through rotation the fluid patterns are too subtle and rather invisible to our eyes. I explore these hidden patterns and make them visible to our naked eyes through methods such as high-speed flash photography or dye visualization. Inspired from Doc Edgerton (a giant in science photography), I use a high-voltage air-gap flash that releases a 20,000 volt arc in air in a fraction of a microsecond. By freezing time with the high-speed flash, all the fast and blurred patterns emerge still and clear in the image and we thus make the hidden underlying world visible to us.

In the case of “Rolling Around a Spinning Top”, we know that when we spin a geometry in a liquid the primary flow for fluid particles is an innocent rotation around the geometry. However, the accompanying centripetal acceleration can also push the fluid particles radially outward and this can lead to some complex secondary flow patterns. This subtle hidden flow is often invisible to us unless we mark some of the liquid with food dye. Thus, the dyed liquid particles leave a visible trace behind their trajectories and this allows us to unravel the complex flow patterns and visualize them in a clear manner. A mesmerizing picture shows the ever-spinning toroidal vortices that roll in a spiral as they rotate with the spinning top. As we add the dyed liquid, different snapshots of the flow shows the evolution of fluid trajectories as they get devoured by this rotating vortex that rolls up into an intricate toroidal spiral.

When it comes to visualization in science, I really like the following quote from Philip Roth: "Seeing is believing and believing is knowing and knowing beats unknowing and the unknown." When I teach fluid mechanics at MIT I strive to give students a chance to learn by seeing and naturally photography of fluid phenomena has become a life passion for me. It is also an activity in which art meets science and that always fascinates me. I enjoy sharing these pictures with the greater community and a channel such as Wikimedia and events such as Science Competition are amazing resources for us to share and also enjoy many different visions of science and art.

All finalists[edit]

All 42 U.S. finalists are displayed below. The full results gallery contains more information about the winning photographs, including the complete winning image sets.


Thanks to our volunteer judges for their efforts. The jury for the U.S. competition is:

  • John P. Sadowski, Wikimedia District of Columbia (coordinator)
  • Laura Soito, Director of Collections, University of New Mexico
  • Jamie Flood, Wikipedian-in-Residence at National Agricultural Library
  • Kevin Payravi, Wikimedia District of Columbia
  • Sandy Avila, Science Librarian at the University of Central Florida
  • Annie Rauwerda, University of Michigan neuroscience student and Depths of Wikipedia creator
  • Tochi Precious, Wikipedian-in-Residence at Moleskine Foundation
  • Danielle Jansen, Wikidataist-in-Residence at Maastricht University Library
  • Callan Carpenter, 2019 U.S. Jury's Choice Prize and International Runner-Up for "Killer whales hunting a seal"
  • Jeremy Axelord, 2019 U.S. Jury's Choice Prize and International QSORT Prize for "See the light"
  • Dustin Johnsen, 2017 U.S. Jury's Choice Prize for "The galaxy within"