The Third Annual URI Research and Scholarship Photo Contest

URI’s third annual Research and Scholarship Photo Contest attracted a stunning collection of photos from URI students, staff, and faculty.

The contest provides a unique opportunity for our researchers and scholars to convey their ideas and work, as well as their unique perspectives, through the images they capture.

We’re proud to share this year’s top-placing photos, which represent a range of disciplines—from oceanography to journalism. They include work by undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty, and they reinforce that time-tested adage: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

1st Place

Migrating Sockeye

A partially underwater view of a socket salmon

Jason Jaacks, Assistant Professor of Multimedia Journalism

Bristol Bay, Alaska is home to the most productive wild salmon fishery on the planet. Every year, millions of salmon return to the pristine watersheds of western Alaska to spawn, including this sockeye salmon on the Kanektok River. This photograph connects to a long-term visual research project that investigates the conservation status of Pacific salmon across their range. The photographs are being built into an archive documenting the challenges that salmon populations face, including the effects of dams, climate change, commercial and recreational fisheries, and threats such as mining, logging, and agriculture.


2nd Place

Coming up for Air

A diver swimming up towards the surface in a dark body of water.

Laird French ’21
Undergraduate Student
Marketing and Photography

This photo was taken during a free dive while exploring a quarry in Westerly, Rhode Island, last summer. French says, “At a certain angle, amazing abstract reflections can be achieved using the surface of the water.” As a photography minor and outdoor enthusiast, French often attempts to capture special moments in nature. This photograph is part of his documentary portfolio of work involving water and nature.


3rd Place

Penguin Polar Plunge

A penguin jumping off an ice floe and into the water

Kelton McMahon
Assistant Professor of Oceanography

This photo was taken during a National Science Foundation-funded research cruise to the Antarctic last spring to study how warming waters and disappearing sea ice are impacting the food webs supporting krill predators in the Southern Ocean. Here, a gentoo penguin leaps off a floating iceberg in the frigid waters of Mikkelsen Harbor in the Antarctic Peninsula in hopes of finding krill to eat, while avoiding being eaten by a hungry leopard seal or killer whale. Penguins are “canaries in the coal mine,” often indicating the health of the ecosystem.


Honorable Mention

From Reef to Market

A woman sitting on a blanket by the shore with a cutting board and a plastic basket

Elaine Shen, Ph.D. ’23
Doctoral Candidate
Biological Sciences

With the sunrise, a fisheries collector prepares a freshly caught triggerfish for sale at the local market in Lombok, Indonesia. As part of her research in biological and environmental sciences, Shen got a firsthand glimpse at how small-scale fisheries in Indonesia operate; she often met fishers at landing sites as they arrived with boats full of colorful coral reef fish designated for personal consumption or sale, depending on the species.


Honorable Mention

Where does the Timberdoodle go?

A closeup of a timber doodle woodcock being fitted with a tracking device

Colby Slezak
Graduate Student
Natural Resources Science

A timberdoodle, or American woodcock, is measured before release as part of research on the spatial ecology of this cryptic, forest-dwelling shorebird. In the last decade, tracking birds using radio-telemetry has produced detailed probability-of-use maps and influenced forest management conducted by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. By attaching state-of-the-art GPS transmitters to the birds in the fall prior to migration, detailed location data can be obtained as the birds migrate to their wintering grounds.


Honorable Mention

Nature’s Underwater 3D Printer: The Parchment Tubeworm

The housing tube of a marine parchment worm, resembling strokes of black paint

Kotachi Liu ’23
Doctoral Candidate
Ocean Engineering

This image is from a transmission electron micrograph showing the housing tube of a marine parchment worm. It shows a cross section of the material, made of highly organized nano-fibrils. These nano-fibrils are able to assemble rapidly underwater, making the material a potential template for novel 3D printing and underwater repair. Liu’s research focuses on developing autonomous underwater vehicles through bioinspiration.


URI’s Research and Scholarship Photo Contest is sponsored by the University of Rhode Island Magazine; the URI Division of Research and Economic Development magazine, Momentum: Research & Innovation; and the Rhode Island Sea Grant/URI Coastal Institute magazine, 41°N: Rhode Island’s Ocean and Coastal Magazine.

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