Stanford University

Stanford Earth photos inspire science and wonder

Stanford Earth's 2018 photo contest drew nearly 200 photographs from around the world from faculty, students, and staff. Photos captured the natural world, students at work in the field, and research in the lab.

BY Barbara Buell
ClockDecember 06, 2018

An undergraduate, a graduate student, and a staff member have won the 2018 Stanford Earth Photo Contest. Winners were Human Biology major Hanna Payne for Best Field Photo, PhD candidate Meredith Goebel for Best Lab Photo, and Stanford Earth Materials Lab manager Katie Dunn for Best Landscape Photo. The photo contest, hosted by the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth), was undertaken in the fall and winners were announced Dec. 6.

“Congratulations to all,” said Stanford Earth Dean Steve Graham. “The number and variety of submissions was truly impressive, illustrating the wide variety of science and engineering research and teaching conducted all over the globe.

“But for all of the evocative scenery in the photos submitted for our contest, its real role is as the backdrop for the important work we do in Stanford Earth, whether in the terrestrial realm, or in the oceans, or sampling the biosphere," Graham said. "We in Stanford Earth are truly fortunate to study the Earth and to have talented photographers among us who document what we do, how we do it, and where we do it!”

Nearly 200 photos were submitted from around the world and from every corner of the school – as well as from students outside the school who are engaging in programs led by Stanford Earth faculty. Hanna Payne, for example, is a HumBio undergraduate who was participating in Rob Dunbar's Stanford at Sea program when she snapped the winning Minke Whale shot in the Field Photos category. 

Judges included Stanford Earth Senior Associate Dean Scott Fendorf, Stanford Earth Dean Steve Graham, Educational Affairs Program Director Audrey Yau, Earth Systems Science PhD student Shersingh Tumber-Davila, Geological Sciences PhD student Molly Witter, Associate Communications Director and School Highlights Editor Dee Tucker, and Associate Dean for Marketing/Communications Barbara Buell. 

Contestants were asked to submit in one or more of three categories: 1) Landscape photos showing the sheer beauty of what we experience in our work with the Earth. These were judged on composition, content (scenic beauty), and image quality (clarity, resolution, lighting). 2) Field photos depicting students directly engaged in field work. These were judged on composition, content (tells a story), and image quality. 3) Lab photos depicting our students, faculty, or researchers at work in the lab. These were judged on composition, content (tells a story), and image quality. The top winner in each category received a set of Apple wireless AirPods.

View the photos here:


Milky Way

The Milky Way over the Green River in Utah on the Crossing the Cordillera field trip.

Photographed by Katie Dunn, Stanford Earth Lab Manager.

Milky Way.

LANDSCAPE: Semi-Finalists

icebergs and ocean
Waves crash on a series of blue icebergs broken from a giant iceberg that imploded in the nearby lagoon and drifted out into the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Iceland. The tides shifted, trapping the ice on the beach as the ancient gems of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier slowly melted into the sea. Captured during an internship/capstone project for Earth Systems. Photographer: Syler Peralta-Ramos
Aurora Borealis
A strong display of the Aurora Borealis dances over Iceland's famous route 1, the only road that encircles the northerly island. Photographer: Syler Peralta-Ramos


Category: FIELD

Minke Whale

A juvenile Minke whale, cruising the waters of the South Pacific, greets student sailors Daela Tipton and Neil Singh aboard the Stanford at SEA program ship.

Photographed by Hanna Payne,  human biology undergraduate student.

Whale next to ship.

FIELD Semi-Finalists

Person overlooking sand dunes.
Nora Nieminski, PhD '17, treading the crest of sand dunes just after sunrise in Sossuvlei, Namibia. Photographer: Jared Gooley


Students doing research underwater.
Undergraduates Natasha Batista, Marianne Cowherd, and Holly Francis deploy an ADV (Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter) in the seagrass in Nikko Bay, Palau. Photographer: Heidi Hirsh


Category: LAB

PhD candidate Meredith Goebel labels calibration samples from a photometric tracer experiment in the lab.
Photographed by Meredith Goebel, Geophysics PhD student.

Meredith Goebel in a lab.

LAB Semi-Finalists

Magnesium Sulfate
Interfingering lamellae of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) grown in a laboratory at Bowdoin College. The image is viewed with a petrographic microscope. Photographer: Zachary F. M. Burton
Person in a lab
Alex Kendrick watches a sample drain in the lab before measuring with nuclear magnetic resonance in the Mitchell Earth Sciences Environmental Geophysics Lab. Photographer: Alex Kendrick



desert image with clouds
A leafless Pinus Balfouriana stretches up against a cloudy sky in the high desert just east of the Sierra Nevada.
Photographer: Tule Horton
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park
Photographer: Hailun (Cindy) Ni
Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone National Park
Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone National Park. Photographer: Hailun (Cindy) Ni
decrepit farmhouse in Kansas
Decrepit farmhouse against a wind farm in Kansas.  
Photographer: Ryder Kimball
Iceberg drifting at sea
A blue iceberg drifts out to sea along the Mars-like tundra of Northern Spitsbergen. Today, the archipelago of Svalbard is located just a few hundred miles from the North Pole, but this was not always the case.
Photographer: Syler Peralta-Ramos
Shallow reefs of Palau
Unbelievably clear water as we inch our way through the shallow reefs of Palau. Undergraduates Holly Francis and Natasha Batista sit in the bow of the boat. Photographer: Heidi Hirsh
Sand dunes, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
Sand dunes from the Namib Desert of Namibia. The tiny dots are trees. Photographer: Joan Roughgarden
Turbidites at low tide, Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Drone shot of miocene thin-bedded turbidites exposed at low tide along the eastern coast of Mahia Peninsula, North Island, New Zealand. Photographer: Nora Nieminski

FIELD Finalists

Student chipping at ice Hiking guide chips away at ice to clear a path through Vatnajökull ice cap, Iceland. Photographer: Ryder Kimball

Students doing research under water.
Zihan Wei captured his own shadow when standing on a huge piece of granite at Alabama Hills, Eastern Sierra, California during the GS184 field trip led by Professor Gail Mahood. Photographer: Zihan Wei
Untitled. Photographer: Hannah Joy-Warren
Students doing research on ship.
Undergraduate Adam Berkhert reads while resting in the sails atop the ship's lab. All around him, the waves of the South Pacific test the sea legs of the students and crew aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Photographer: Hanna Payne
Diver blowing bubble rings.
Stanford undergraduate Holly Francis takes a break from field work in Palau to show me how to blow bubble rings. Photographer: Heidi Hirsh
Student overlooking landscape with water.
Hannah Shabb, '20, is pictured sitting surrounded by the mountain ranges in Mount Baker National Forest, Washington. Photographer: Hannah Shabb
Research on icebreaker.
Untitled. Photographer: Hannah Joy-Warren
Student touching rock face.
Nora Nieminski, PhD '17, points out the severe deformation of Neoproterozoic cap carbonate that records the Marinoan Snowball Earth Glaciation in Damara Orogen, Namibia. Submitted by Nora Nieminski. Photographer: Jared Gooley
Andea Scott working in the field Energy resrouces engineering undergraduate Andea Scott enthusiastically collects a soil core sample. Photographer: Maceo Porro
Aliyah Chavez '18 and Sarah Vernallis '19 watch the waves break on Kaua'i's north shore during the 2016 Wrigley Field Program in Hawai'i
Aliyah Chavez '18 and Sarah Vernallis '19 watch the waves break on Kaua'i's north shore during the 2016 Wrigley Field Program in Hawaii. Photographer: Michael Burnett


LAB Finalists

field work is not always glamous
Field work is not always glamorous. Dave Mucciarone (Dunbar Lab Manager) troubleshoots the Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) system after our first night of high resolution experimentation. Photographer: Heidi Hirsh
Students from Adam Brandt's group
Students from Adam Brandt's Environmental Assessment and Optimization group (EAO) prepare a (tenure-) surprise for him in his office. Photographer: Holger Teichgraeber
Lab setup in Antarctica
Hans Dejong, a former Dunbar PhD student, is pictured working in Rob Dunbar's carbon system lab setup at sea on board the RVIB N.B. Palmer in Antarctica in 2018. Photographer: David A. Mucciarone
Leighton Watson in a lab
When the environmental geophysics research group have technical issues who do they call? PhD candidate Leighton Watson. Photographer: Leighton Watson
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Media Contacts

Audrey Yau

School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, (650) 497-0942

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