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Compound Eye

Compound Eye

The many facets of science photography

Compound Eye: the many facets of science photography

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A compound eye is a visual sensory organ composed of numerous small lenses. This charming South American grasshopper sports an especially large pair.

Welcome to Compound Eye, a Scientific American photography blog!

The blog is new, but the blogger is not. My name is Alex Wild. I am an entomologist and nature photographer based in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and I have been writing about insects, science, and photography at Myrmecos Blog since 2007.

While Myrmecos will continue at its present location with more or less the same content, Compound Eye is a new venture featuring:

  • Spectacular photographs from across the sciences, accompanied by interviews with the people behind the images.
  • How-To articles on photographic technique. I'll cover tricks from cell phone cameras to professional SLRs to microscopy.
  • Commentary on issues related to scientific imagery: emerging technology, intellectual property, social media, and cultural contexts.
  • Essays of my own, mostly natural history images.
  • A selection of reader-submitted work.

This being a photography blog, a photo essay should serve as an appropriate introduction to my work:

Collecting ants in Amazonian Ecuador, January 2011. My primary research interest for the past 10 years concerns the evolution and taxonomy of ants, especially South American species.

Leafcutter ants (Atta species) are among the more spectacular insects of the American tropics. I had a love/hate relationship with these when I was a dewy-eyed Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay in the 1990s. These charismatic ants have a simply astounding biology, but they also razed my garden, repeatedly.

I received my Ph.D. in Entomology in 2005 from the University of California at Davis, where I revised the taxonomy of the ant genus Linepithema. This photo shows a queen and worker of Linepithema humile, better known as the Argentine ant and one of the more damaging pest insects worldwide. As part of my dissertation, I determined the native distribution of this ant in Northern Argentina/Paraguay.

As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona, I assisted the NSF-funded "Assembling the Beetle Tree of Life" project, hoping to infer the evolutionary relationships among major lineages of beetles.

My current research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign concerns the taxonomy of parasitic wasps in the family Braconidae. Here, a female Cotesia wasp lays an egg on a hapless hornworm in lab culture.

A scanning electron micrograph of Heterospilus, the wasp subject of my current project. Costa Rica alone contains more than 300 undescribed species in this genus. Also, I would be remiss if I did not point out this insect's large compound eyes.

During the summer I teach what is possibly the most fun class ever offered at any university: Introduction to Beekeeping. I try not to drone on during lecture, although this drone (at left) probably can't help it.

I am continually impressed with the active community of entomologists here at the University of Illinois. This photo shows an evening collecting trip last Saturday.

In 2003 I started a small, part-time business supplying magazines, textbooks, museums, and other natural history venues with entomological imagery. This book cover is a recent example.

Finally, for those who don't know me, a smattering of other creations:

Compound Eye is a shiny new blog. Too shiny, even. It still emits that lingering New Blog Smell.

Help break it in by trying out the comments section below. Introduce yourself, leave a suggestion for topics you'd like to see discussed here, or just give a link to your own images. I mean that last bit, too. Once we're running on a regular schedule (about 2 weeks from now) I'd like to feature reader photos.

Then, once you're done with the comments, have a look around the new Scientific American network. Bora Zivkovic has shepherded as impressive a stable of blog talent as can be found anywhere. I know I'll be spending much of today exploring!

A 13-year periodical cicada showing telltale red eyes.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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