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Capturing the Art of Research | Queen's Gazette – Queen's University

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With a reimagined focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the annual Queen’s Art of Research photo contest reveals seven winning images.

From photos depicting the nanoscale to the freezing landscape of the Artic, the annual Art of Research photo contest takes us behind the scenes of the everyday research experience at Queen’s. With engagement this year from faculty, staff, students, and alumni, the contest aims to represent the diversity and creativity of research across disciplines and from all contributors to the research ecosystem.

The 2022 contest introduced five new categories inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Guided by the mission and vision of the new Queen’s Strategy and the universal call to action of the SDGs, this year’s contest placed a spotlight on the intrinsic connection between research and social impact. Discover this year’s winners below and to view more contest winners and top submissions from the past six years, explore The Art of Research Photo Gallery.

2022 Art of Research Adjudication Committee

  • Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research)
  • Kanonhsyonne – Janice Hill, Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation)
  • Nicholas Mosey, Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Arts and Science
  • Heidi Ploeg, QFEAS Chair for Women in Engineering, Mechanical and Materials Engineering
  • Ruth Dunley, Associate Director, Editorial Strategy, Office of Advancement
  • Jung-Ah Kim, PhD Student, Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies
  • Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, University Relations
  • Véronique St-Antoine, Communications Advisor, NSERC

[Photo of the SNO+ detector at SNOLAB by Dr. Alex Wright]

Category: Innovation for Global Impact

The SNO+ Detector

Submitted by: Dr. Alex Wright for the SNO+ Collaboration
Faculty, Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy
Location: SNOLAB, Sudbury, Ontario

The SNO+ experiment studies the fundamental properties of neutrinos. The detector consists of an active volume of 780 tonnes of liquid scintillator housed within a 12-metre diameter acrylic vessel that is held in place by ropes and viewed by an array of about 10,000 photomultiplier light detectors. In this image, taken by a camera embedded in the photomultiplier array, the detector is illuminated only by light from the clean room at the top of the vessel neck, producing a beam effect. The SNO+ experiment is currently collecting data, carrying on the work of the Nobel-prize winning Sudbury Neutrino Observatory.


[Photo of 3D vascular trees in animal models]

Category: Good Health and Well-Being

The Tiniest Tree of Life

Submitted byDr. Elahe Alizadeh
Staff, Queen’s CardioPulmonary Unit (QCPU), Department of Medicine 
Location: Queen’s CardioPulmonary Unit

COVID-19, the second pandemic of the current century, is still an ongoing global health emergency. Its complications and mortality are associated with pneumonia and alterations in the pulmonary vasculature. Acquiring 3D images of vascular trees in animal models provide a useful tool to evaluate the effects of COVID-19 in humans. In our research aimed at finding new drugs for COVID-19 under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Archer, vascular trees of a mouse were pressure perfused to maximal dilation with a radio-opaque material (barium). The heart and lungs were fixed and scanned using VECTor4CT scanner. VECTor4CT is the first tri-modality imaging system equipped with an ultra-high-resolution micro-computed tomography (µCT) scanner at Queen’s University.


[Photo of George Konana collecting ice by Saskia de Wildt]

Category: Creative and Sustainable Communities

George Konana Collecting Ice

Submitted bySaskia de Wildt
PhD Student, School of Environmental Studies
Location: Gjoa Haven, Nunavut

The Inuit practice an ongoing relationship with the land through camping, hunting, and fishing. As part of the BearWatch project, I explore how such knowledge, accumulated over many generations, and Inuit values can be ethically engaged in a community-based polar bear monitoring program. This picture is taken on one of our trips out on the land around Gjoa Haven during spring 2022. It captures George Konana collecting ice from the lake for tea. He traces ice with the right quality to give his tea a nice ‘reddish, brown’ color. At this exact moment, he cracks out a huge piece, enough for a month of tea.


[Photo of a gastropod mummy laying eggs by Ruqaiya Yousif]

Category: Climate Action

Gastropod Mummy

Submitted byRuqaiya Yousif
PhD Student, Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering
Location: Qatar

This is a picture of a gastropod mummy laying down her egg cases. My research assesses the stable isotope (C and O), clumped isotope (∆47), and trace element compositions of living and quaternary shells from the Arabian/Persian Gulf. The aim is to link these analyses with modern oceanographic data to develop a robust proxy for understanding oceanographic change in the rock record. In other words, I am trying to link the shell chemistry with its surrounding environment and then use this link to assess oceanographic changes over the past 125,000 years. At the time of this picture, we were growing gastropods under laboratory conditions and performing invitro fertilization of oysters.


[Photo of a researcher collecting environmental DNA in a maternal polar bear den by Scott Arlidge]

Category: Partnerships for Inclusivity (Tied)

Polar Bear Denning

Submitted byScott Arlidge
Graduate Student, School of Environmental Studies
Location: Coral Harbour, Nunavut

This photo demonstrates the collection of snow from inside a maternal polar bear den to collect environmental DNA. When the mother digs out the den, skin cells from her paws are abraded and stuck to the snow. Some preliminary research shows that we may be able to identify individual bears by analyzing these snow samples, information which can inform polar bear population management. My research is a pilot of ground-based non-invasive polar bear monitoring techniques, with a focus on Inuit inclusivity. Inuit Elders and polar bear hunters are key knowledge holders and collaborators throughout this research.


[Photo of a mural of the Oasis logo by Riley Malvern]

Category: Partnerships for Inclusivity (Tied)

Aging with Oasis

Submitted byRiley Malvern
Staff, Health Services and Policy Research Institute
Location Kingston, Ontario

Oasis is a program co-developed by older adults to strengthen and sustain their communities to support aging in place. The Oasis Evaluation and Expansion research team has been working with Oasis communities since 2018 to expand the program across Canada and to evaluate a number of health and well-being outcomes. This photo depicts a mural that represents the power of communities coming together. Each square of this mural was designed by an Oasis member from communities across Kingston and Belleville. Together, these squares form the Oasis logo, which was designed by members of the original Oasis community.


[Photo of a crystallized decanoic acid by Dan Reddy]

Category: People’s Choice

Crystalline Acid

Submitted byDan Reddy
PhD Student, Chemistry
Location: Chernoff Hall, Queen’s University

This photo taken with scanning electron microscopy depicts an extremely small yet precise volume (i.e., nanolitre-sized) of crystallized decanoic acid. We are using these spots of crystalline acid to extract and preconcentrate, or soak-up, chemicals of concern like opioids from wastewater samples. This preconcentration step improves our ability to monitor these chemicals. By doing so, we can improve how we detect these harmful compounds and protect local watersheds.


To learn more about this year’s winners and explore past winners and top submissions, visit The Art of Research Photo Gallery on the Research@Queen’s website.

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The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes – Phys.org

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The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes
Part of the Field Museum’s underground “bunker” of reptile specimens. Credit: Field Museum

Two levels underground, Chicago’s Field Museum has a secret bunker. The sub-basement Collections Resource Center houses millions of biological specimens for scientists around the world to use in their research, including countless bottles and jars containing pickled fish, lizards, and snakes, arranged like a library. Many of these specimens are decades or even centuries old, near-perfectly preserved by a combination of formalin and alcohol. But the process that preserves tissues often destroys or at least makes acquiring DNA for modern studies very difficult, which is bad news for scientists who study genetic relationships between organisms. A new study in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, however, reveals new approaches for getting and maximizing usable DNA from decades-old pickled specimens, and uses these techniques to solve a long-standing mystery about a small snake from the island of Borneo.

“As a true crime aficionado, it reminds me of how people didn’t take DNA samples when a crime was committed in the 1960s, because nobody could have predicted that one day DNA samples would let you pinpoint who committed a crime,” says Sara Ruane, assistant curator of herpetology at the Field Museum and the study’s senior author. “These older museum specimens are sometimes the only available examples of a species, but they weren’t preserved with DNA in mind— this paper is about how we can squeeze every bit of information possible out of them.”

The project was born of the dissertation research of Justin Bernstein when he was Ruane’s student at Rutgers University-Newark. “My primary study is on a group of snakes, called homalopsids or mud snakes, that live in South and Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and Australia,” says Bernstein, the paper’s lead author. “They’re really fascinating; they live in muddy, aquatic environments, and there are 56 species of them. We use DNA to study their , to try to describe new species, and to learn what happened to these groups over tens of millions of years that led to the diversity we see today.”

The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes
Alcohol-preserved specimens of Hydrablabes periops in the Field Museum’s collections. Credit: Josh Mata, Field Museum

For this paper, there was one animal in particular that Bernstein and Ruane were trying to place into a family group, a two-foot-long greenish-brown snake called Hydrablabes periops, aka the olive small-eyed snake. It’s found on Borneo, a large island east of mainland Malaysia and northwest from Australia that contains parts of Malaysia and Indonesia and the entire nation of Brunei. Based on its appearance, scientists had suggested two different families that it might be a part of. Analyzing its DNA could reveal its closest relatives and thus, its family, but that was easier said than done. “About half of mud snake diversity and all Hydrablabes vouchers are known from older specimens that were chemically treated, and this chemical treatment breaks down the DNA,” says Bernstein.

Part of the process of preserving an animal in alcohol is “fixing” it with a substance called formalin, a solution of formaldehyde gas and water, that makes its tissues rubbery and rigid. Unfortunately, the DNA in its cells gets altered as well. “It does something called crosslinking, which binds up the DNA,” says Ruane. “If you want to study its DNA, you need to undo or try to force the DNA out from those crosslinks.”

Studying the olive small-eyed snake meant taking small samples of liver tissue from some of the few specimens in the United States, both from the Field Museum’s collections. One from 1964, and the other from a 1993 collecting trip by the Field’s then-curator Robert Inger and his wife Tan Fui Lian.

The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes
Lead author Justin Bernstein visiting the Field Museum’s reptile collections. Credit: Sara Ruane, Field Museum

Such old specimens required new lab techniques. Normally, getting DNA out of a tissue sample involves adding digestive enzymes that break apart the tissue, leaving the DNA behind, and heating it to 130 ℉ for several hours. “We had to modify the way we got the DNA out by making it hotter for longer and using more of these digestive enzymes,” says Ruane. These more extreme preparation methods have been effective for other snakes in previous studies, but the resulting genetic analysis still contained lots of gaps for Borneo’s Hydrablabes snake specimen.

The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes
Lead author Justin Bernstein working with snake specimens at University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum, taking morphological data to examine homalopsid snake diversity. Credit: Justin Bernstein

“The chemicals used to preserve the snakes sheared their DNA into shorter pieces of code, which made them hard to compare with longer, more complete genes from other specimens,” says Bernstein. “The first software that I used made it hard to understand how much fragmented DNA there was across the study specimens, but switching to a different software that visualized the pieces of genetic code made it easier to see where there were problems.” And even the smaller, more fragmented pieces of code could be added to larger, published datasets to help build an evolutionary tree.

An important aspect of this paper for Bernstein was being transparent about the difficulties of using older specimens and the troubleshooting required to study them. “I wanted to show scientists that you can still do work with these specimens, it just requires a bit of finagling,” he says. “On a broader level, the study is really showing how to leverage the data you do obtain and how you can combine it with previously published datasets to investigate some really cool hypotheses.”

The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes
One of the decades-old snake specimens from the Field Museum used in this study. Credit: Sara Ruane, Field Museum

As for the Bornean at the heart of the study, the researchers were able to determine that it’s a member of the family Natricidae, which contains distant relatives such as the North American garter snakes. Which might not seem like a big deal, but “knowing that a particular species is part of a certain group can tell us a lot about biogeography and about how life on Earth has changed over time,” says Ruane.

And beyond the study of snakes, she notes that overall, “this project underscores the importance of museum collections, because you never know what you’ll be able to learn from specimens in the future.”


Explore further

Scientists discover a way to sequence DNA of rare animals


More information:
Maximizing molecular data from low-quality fluid-preserved specimens in natural history collections, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution (2022). DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2022.893088.

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Field Museum

Citation:
The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes (2022, June 30)
retrieved 30 June 2022
from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-art-dna-decades-old-pickled-snakes.html

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'Wordle' fan? The National Gallery of Art has launched a copycat. – The Washington Post

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Summer Brennan can recognize a Vincent van Gogh painting by its wispy, vibrant brushstrokes. A series of loopy spirals or spindly legs? That’s probably Louise Bourgeois.

But after a few days of playing “Artle,” Brennan, a writer based in Paris, began to notice some holes in her art knowledge. For 30 years, she has indulged her love of visual arts by visiting galleries, reading books and attending shows. So when she couldn’t identify a piece by French photographer Eugène Atget, it felt like an embarrassing lapse.

“It does give you some self-awareness when you realize that all the artists you know right away are like White 19th-century artists, that maybe it’s time to expand some of your art appreciation,” Brennan said.

One of the latest “Wordle” copycats challenges players not with letters, but with images plucked from the National Gallery of Art. The popular daily word game, which was purchased by the New York Times for seven figures in January, has sparked dozens of spinoffs: “Squabble” (a Wordle battle royal), “Herdle” (for the musically minded), and even “Lewdle” (for profanity experts).

Worldle, Semantle, Heardle and 9 other Wordle alternatives

“Artle” begins by showing players a piece of art — a painting, photograph or sculpture — from the National Gallery of Art’s 150,000-piece collection, including whimsical paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and somber Roy DeCarava photographs. Players have four chances to guess the artist. Unlike “Wordle,” there are no hints, although the art becomes progressively easier to identify as players strike out. Players can then share their results with friends through text messages or on social media.

Mary Gregory, an art critic based in New York, began playing “Artle” as soon as it launched last monthand it’s now become a ritual. Every day, Gregory and her husband return to the gallery’s “Artle” website to test their art aptitude and extend their untouched winning streak.

“It’s fun. It’s a little challenge. And, you know what? If you get it wrong at the end, they tell you who it was,” she said. “These are in the collection of the National Gallery, and the National Gallery belongs to everybody.”

Steven Garbarino, a product manager at the gallery, began developing the game after noticing that people were searching for “Art Wordle” online but that no such game existed. It was the worst possible time. In late March, the museum’s staff was busy with “Afro-Atlantic Histories,” the gallery’s largest exhibition since the start of the pandemic. Garbarino worried that launching a gaming app would be seen as a distraction.

To his surprise, National Gallery of Art Director Kaywin Feldman quickly jumped on board. It took little more than a month to build the game, and it quickly began attracting an audience, with players in nearly every country. It has been played more than 1 million times and has 30,000 daily players. The game has increased traffic to the museum’s website by 125 percent.

Kaywin Feldman wants the National Gallery to be relevant to everyone. But first they have to come back.

“You can catch a little bit of lightning in a bottle and see cascading results,” Garbarino said. “We don’t have to spend 12 months developing a huge strategy and positioning plan. We can build something small [like ‘Artle’] that engages the audience.”

Projects such as “Artle” reflect a new vision for the National Gallery of Art: a desire to quickly reach new, more diverse audiences. Since being named director in 2019, Feldman has updated the museum’s mission statement and priorities. The product management team, which developed the game, has doubled in size, including adding more software engineers and digital consultants under Feldman’s leadership. “The bulk of our funding comes from the American taxpayers, so we owe it to them to give them the greatest art experience they can have. And the nation is a very diverse place. We want to focus on the great richness of the diversity of the American people and better reflect the nation,” Feldman said in an interview with Washingtonian last year.

The team worked closely with the gallery’s education department to choose a mix of famous, easily identifiable art and more obscure pieces. Within the game, for example, Georgia O’Keeffe paintings are considered easy to identify, while those by James McNeill Whistler are a little more difficult. Meanwhile, a piece by Elizabeth Catlett, a Black sculptor and graphic artist, is considered difficult to pick out.

The gallery wants the artists displayed in the game to reflect a diversity of races and gender, Garbarino said. “Often some of the lowest success rates are on artists of diverse backgrounds, artists of color or women artists,” he said.

It’s a challenge. Of the 157,553 objects in the gallery’s collection, only 2.3 percent are by non-White artists, and 8.1 percent are by female artists. In the first 45 days of “Artle,” 17.8 percent of the objects used in the game were by non-White artists and 22.2 percent were by female artists.

National Gallery enters new, overdue era with African diaspora show

“It’s a fine balance between bringing up artists that we think should be having a higher priority among the public while maintaining that ease of introduction to the game,” Garbarino said. “If it happens to be two days in a row where it’s a dead White man and someone is like, ‘Hey, every time I come here, it’s only a dead White man.’ It’s like, no, if you look at the broad spectrum of all the artists, it’s much more diverse. But it’s difficult to communicate that in one day.”

The well of famous artists will soon run dry, Garbarino said, and “Artle” will have to begin repeating artists or introducing its players to more unfamiliar names.

That could drive away players like Brennan’s husband who, she said, calls “Artle” “torture” and often simply offers Picasso as the answer to every image to end the game quickly.

It turns out, “Artle” may not be for everyone.

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CATHERINE SHEPHERD: Connecting through art – Saltwire

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In recent years we’ve come to understand the importance of arts and culture in our lives. Art helps us to connect with ourselves and others. It’s an excellent way to express yourself that is known to positively impact our well-being, especially for those living with dementia.

Artful Afternoon is a dementia-friendly program offered by the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia in partnership with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for people living with dementia and their care partners. Participants are encouraged to tap into their creativity and reflect with one another while being able to make their own works of art.

The sessions provide a stress-free environment of fun where everyone involved can laugh, create and connect with one another.

For many, art is completely new to them, while others find themselves reconnecting with something they’ve always loved to do. Participants take a sense of pride in their art regardless of their experience.

Artful Afternoon information. - Contributed
Artful Afternoon information. – Contributed

 

Participants don’t have to be in-person to enjoy an Artful Afternoon. Sessions are offered virtually on Zoom for those who live across the province to enjoy – materials needed for the session are provided. Sessions are facilitated by Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia staff and a professional artist from the Art Gallery. It includes a guided tour of the gallery followed by an art session. Recordings of the virtual sessions are shared on our website for those who are interested at www.alzheimer.ca/ns/virtualartfulafternoon.

“It’s wonderful that we’re able to offer both in-person and virtual formats where no prior art experience is necessary,” said Calandra Kandziora, Client Services Coordinator at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia.

“The relaxed environment allows participants to connect with one another and their care partners.”



The sessions include a tour of a collection at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia where artist and instructor, Lux Habrich, shares her knowledge and information.

Everyone attending feels that they are part of the group, even if they aren’t there in person. After learning about the collection, people from across the province can share and discuss.

At the end of the session, Lux provides some instruction on how participants may use the materials in art kits provided by the gallery. Many people even use the materials outside of the sessions.

“Facilitating the program for the past four years has been hugely influential for me personally,” said Lux. “Not only has it deepened my relationship with my own creative practice, but I’ve been able to witness over and over again the immense power art making and appreciation play in our overall well-being, sense of autonomy and community connectedness.”

Catherine Shepherd is Regional Coordinator, Education & Outreach, Cape Breton, Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia. - Contributed
Catherine Shepherd is Regional Coordinator, Education & Outreach, Cape Breton, Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia. – Contributed

 

We know that maintaining connections and trying new activities are important parts of living well with dementia. The program reduces stigma and myths by bringing together people living with dementia, care partners, staff and volunteers in a community setting.

Meaningful social activity is important for everyone, but this need is increased for people living with dementia and their care partners.

The program has received glowing reviews from its participants.

“It’s a fun activity to do with my parent. I think it’s a good opportunity for him to get out and do something different, social, and enjoyable. It gives us something to talk about as well and creates good memories for us.”

If you are hesitant about dipping your toes into the program but enjoy art, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia offers virtual tours on their website www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca/virtualtour.

To find out more and to register for Artful Afternoon, visit alzheimer.ca/ns/artfulafternoon or call our Infoline at 1-800-611-6345.

Catherine Shepherd is a regional co-ordinator, Cape Breton and provincial lead, first link outreach, with the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia.

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