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School photo contest showcases action, beauty, sustainability

The inaugural Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability Photo Contest offers a glimpse into the perspectives and experiences of its community, from wonder and concern for the natural world to hope and splendor found in everyday encounters.

If the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability were to be described with submissions to its inaugural photo contest, it would conjure an abundance of emotions that reflect the complexity of today’s sustainability challenges: uncertainty, resolve, passion, hope, despair, and wonder.

Stanford students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty, staff, and alumni submitted 385 photographs to the 2023 photo contest, which was held during winter quarter. The competition was a continuation of the photo contest established in 2018 by the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, whose operations are now part of the new school. This year’s competition expanded to include submissions from alumni and featured categories central to the Doerr School of Sustainability’s mission: 

The categories included: Action and Impact in the Field, Action and Impact on Campus, Beauty in Nature, and The Challenges We Face. Together, these categories drew submissions of nature juxtaposed with development, research conducted on campus, and breathtaking landscapes.

“I’m so pleased that we’ve continued the tradition of the photo contest with the new school,” said Dean Arun Majumdar. “We congratulate the winners and thank all those who entered not only for sharing their amazing talents but also for broadening our perspectives of the world around us and providing these vivid reminders of the impact of our work.”

In the Action and Impact in the Field category, photo entries spanned life below water and a trip to the stratosphere. Contestants showcased their engagement with the world, from its towering trees to snow-capped mountains. Abby Cummings, Product Design '24, received first place in the category for portraying an underwater researcher counting a species of sea snail in coral.

The category for Action and Impact on Campus brought to life the Farm, revealing lab work, experiential learning, and hidden corners of campus. In first place, Leo Glikbarg, International Relations ’23, showed how students in BIO 159: Herpetology conduct field research documenting wildlife at the edges of Lake Lagunita.

Ananya Navale, Computer Science ’25, won second and third place in the category, zeroing in on people working with trees and bees on campus. 

“I personally love photographing how humans, students in particular, choose to get their hands dirty and have fun with initiatives that can really make a difference, no matter how small the impact,” Navale said. “In this complicated world we’ve built, simple things can become the most interesting – learning a propagating technique that has been used for centuries like grafting or seeing a natural caretaker like the humble honeybee at work in a familiar environment.”

In a stunning rendition of the night sky, photographer Xinxin Cheng, an associate scientist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, showcased a sequence of photos combined to create a composite of the rising total lunar eclipse over the Stanford Dish from Menlo Park. Cheng won first place in the Beauty in Nature category, which also drew submissions of unique perspectives of wildlife and stellar light that seems to dance through Earth’s landscapes.

The final category, The Challenges We Face, brought harrowing reminders of the devastation of wildfires, storms, and consumerism. In first place, Philippe Roberge, a PhD student in Earth System Science, captured himself standing inside a cave under the receding Wedgemount Glacier in British Columbia, Canada.

The winning photographs were selected from the judges’ rankings based on image quality (color, texture, composition, resolution, lighting) and content (subject, location, emotion, story, category fit). Judging took place in March 2023. First-round judges included Audrey Yau, director of Stanford Energy Fellowships at the Precourt Institute for Energy; Camille Pagniello, MAC3 Postdoctoral Fellow at Hopkins Marine Station; and Ryan Petterson, director of field education. Second-round judges included Sheila Singh, associate director of brand marketing, Marketing & Communications at the Graduate School of Business; Andrew Brodhead, photographer at University Communications; Sarah Bielecki, associate director of digital engagement in the School of Engineering; Jennifer Saltzman, assistant dean for professional development and community building; Keith Uyeda, assistant director of digital media at Residential & Dining Enterprises; and Chloe Yu-Ning Cheng, an undergraduate student in Geophysics. The final round of judging was conducted by Heidi Sigua Campbell, digital engagement and marketing specialist; Amy Adams, associate dean of marketing and communications; Dana Granoski, creative director; and Danielle Torrent Tucker, associate communications director.

First-place winners of the contest received a 2023 national parks and federal recreational lands pass that covers entrance fees at lands managed by the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, in addition to day-use fees at federally managed lands. Their images will also be displayed in Dean Arun Majumdar’s office. 

All first-, second-, and third-place photos will be displayed in the Mitchell Building’s Hartley conference room and Doerr School of Sustainability student lounge for one year; displayed at Roble Arts Gym for the Spring Arts Fair on April 28, 3-6 p.m., then moved to a more permanent display on the Redwood City campus; and featured as downloadable desktop and virtual meeting backgrounds available to the Stanford community.

Action and Impact in the Field

First Place

Abby Cummings
Product Design, Class of 2024

A student in snorkeling gear using a quadrat on an underwater coral. The ocean surface frames the top of the image
Izzy Meyerson, Environmental Systems Engineering '24, uses a quadrat to count the number of Dendropoma maximum on a head of Porites lobata coral. Photographer: Abby Cummings

Second Place

Philippe Roberge
PhD student, Earth System Science

Philippe Roberge - Field Impact
Philippe Roberge, PhD '25, using photogrammetry to measure the volume of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park. Photographer: Philippe Roberge

Third Place

Marius von Essen
PhD candidate, Earth System Science

Marius von Essen - Field Impact - Honorable Mention
The challenge to achieve sustainable energy, transport, and conservation of natural lands, Coachella Valley, California. Photographer: Marius von Essen

Honorable Mentions

Jaden Clark
Computer Science, Class of 2024

Jaden Clark - Field Impact - Honorable Mention
A Red-Footed Booby tends to its baby on the shore of Palmyra Atoll. Photographer: Jaden Clark

Isabela Rios Amador
PhD student, Chemical Engineering

Isa Rios - Photo contest 2023
Isa Rios, PhD ‘27, removing coral fragments from Coralisma’s coral tree nursery to restore them back onto the Mexican reef.

Syed Faraz
MBA ‘23

Syed Faraz - Field Impact - Honorable Mention
Syed Faraz, MBA ‘23, flying in the stratosphere at the edge of space. Photographer: Syed Faraz

Action and Impact on Campus

First Place

Leo Glikbarg
International Relations, Class of 2023

Leo Glikbarg - Action & Impact on Campus - First Place
Students in BIO159: Herpetology conduct field research documenting wildlife at the edges of Lake Lagunita. Photographer: Leo Glikbarg

Second Place

Ananya Navale
Computer Science, Class of 2025

Ananya Navale - Campus Impact - Second Place
Honeybees in hives behind Casper Dining Hall. Photographer: Ananya Navale

Third Place

Ananya Navale
Computer Science, Class of 2025

Ananya Navale - Campus Impact - Third Place
Campus gardener Conrad Schmidt demonstrates the process of creating a cleft graft during a Saturday gardening workshop. Photographer: Ananya Navale

Honorable Mentions

Yiran Li
PhD student, Civil and Environmental Engineering 

Yiran Li - Campus Impact - Honorable Mention
Luthy group, turning runoff into clean water to cope with drought and improve water resilience in California. Photographer: Yiran Li

Dolly Mantle
PhD student, Mechanical Engineering

Research project in Jon Fan Lab on inductive heating for chemical reactors to reduce reliance on fossil fuel heat. Photographer: Dolly Mantle

Beauty in Nature

First Place

Xinxin Cheng, PhD
Associate Scientist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

XinXin Cheng - Photo Contest 2023
The sequence of rising total lunar eclipse over Stanford Dish, Menlo Park, California. Photographer: Xinxin Cheng

Second Place

Jihui Ding
Postdoctoral Researcher, Rocks and Geomaterials Lab 

Jihui Ding - Beauty Nature - Second Place
Sunshine in the Lower Antelope Canyon. Photographer: Jihui Ding

Third Place

JillAnne Ward McCarty, MD, PhD
BS '77, Biological Sciences 

Sea Fan
Nature's Mardi Gras: A huge gorgonian sea fan dances in the current amidst a raining school of reef fish in Indonesia's Banda Sea.

Honorable Mentions

Herschell Taghap
Staff, Stanford Alumni Association

Herschell Taghap - Beauty Nature - Honorable Mention
A great blue heron with a California tiger salamander at the temporarily filled Lake Lagunita.

Nora Hennessy
PhD student, Energy Science and Engineering 

Nora Hennessy - Beauty Nature - Honorable Mention
The Milky Way lights up the sky above Banner Peak and Thousand Island Lake. Photographer: Nora Hennessy

Vel Senthil
Management Science and Engineering, Class of 2025 

Vel Senthil - Beauty Nature - Honorable Mention
There is beauty in every form of nature, even the scary ones. Photographer: Vel Senthil

Larry Chow
Staff, Stanford School of Medicine 

Larry Chow - Beauty Nature - Honorable Mention
"The Biggest Little Tree." Photographer: Larry Chow

The Challenges We Face

First Place

Philippe Roberge
PhD student, Earth System Science

Phillipe Roberge - Challenges We Face - First Place
Standing inside a cave under the Wedgemount Glacier in British Columbia, Canada. The glacier is receding at over 30 meters per year now. Photographer: Philippe Roberge

Second Place (Tie)

Nicolas San Miguel
Aero/Astro, MS '23 

El Bosque Muerto, a cloud forest on the rim of Mombacho Volcano damaged by volcanic gases. Taken in Granada, Nicaragua. Photographer: Nicolas San Miguel

Second Place (Tie)

John Kroeger
Engineering, Class of 2025

John Kroeger - Challenges We Face - Second Place
Mt. Lassen following the Dixie Fire. Photographer: John Kroeger

Third Place

Tanvi Dutta Gupta
BS '23 Biology, MS '24 Earth Systems

A village on a high-altitude Himalayan plateau overlooks its landfill. Photographer: Tanvi Dutta Gupta

Honorable Mentions

Tanvi Dutta Gupta
BS '23 Biology, MS '24 Earth Systems

Tanvi Dutta Gupta - Challenges We Face - Honorable Mention
Lake Geneva is covered by an enormous storm in early April. Photographer: Tanvi Dutta Gupta

Lindsey Akin
Staff, School of Engineering 

Lindsey Akin - Challenges We Face - Honorable Mention
Tenaya Akin, aged 8, hiking in less than optimal air and light conditions in Lassen National Park in the early days of the 2021 Dixie Fire. Photographer: Lindsey Akin

Brennecke Gale
Human Biology BS ’22, Earth Systems - Environmental Communication MA ’23  

Smoke from the Caldor Fire descends over Fallen Leaf Lake in South Lake Tahoe, CA.
Smoke from the Caldor Fire descends over Fallen Leaf Lake in South Lake Tahoe, California. Photographer: Brennecke Gale

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