The 2016 Vizzies, a prize awarded annually by the National Science Foundation and Popular Science, honors the best use of visual media to communicate scientific research and data in the past year.
A team of experts from the two organizations responsible for the award winnowed entries down to 50 finalists, ten in each of five categories—illustrations, photographs, interactives, videos, and posters and graphics. After the entries, which come from academic researchers, artists, and hobbyists, were narrowed down, judges weighed in to select a winner. The public was also given a chance to vote for a people's choice winner in each category.
In the video category, the winner of both the experts' and the people's choice awards went to HHMI's "Coral Bleaching: A Breakdown of Symbiosis," created by Fabian de Kok-Mercado, Satoshi Amagai, Mark Nielsen, Dennis Liu, and Steve Palumbi (seen above). It zooms down into a coral reef off of American Samoa to explore how rising ocean temperatures adversely affect the symbiotic relationship between coral colonies and algae necessary for this marine ecosystem to survive. An honorary mention went to digital artist Eric Keller for the first episode of his video series, "Entomology Animated Episode 1: Rifa Madness," which focuses on venomous fire ants. Other contenders in the category focus on tiny cancer-fighting machines, and the impact of climate change on Maine's lobsters.
In the photography category, "Walking in Color," by Daniel M. Harris and John W.M. Bush, was the experts' top choice. Wanting to illustrate behaviors of minute quantum particles, Harris, then a PhD student at MIT, used a regular camera to photograph the similar actions of droplets of liquid over a vibrating bath. In the people's choice vote, the win went to a three-week-old "American Lobster Larva," by Jesica Waller, Halley McVeigh, and Noah Oppenheim. Other finalists shot the inner ear of a mouse, a juvenile Hawaiian bobtail squid, and a Latin Square, a math puzzle upon which Sudoku is based, made out of Legos®.
Among interactives, the experts gave their vote to "A Year in the Life of Earth's CO2," by Bernhard Jenny, Bojan Šavriè, Johannes Liem, William M. Putman, Kayvon Sharghi, Aaron E. Lepsch, and Patrick Lynch. Demonstrating how carbon dioxide flows around the world, the interactive allows users to explore the data by navigating through time and space. Stephanie Yee and Tony Chu won the popular vote for "A Visual Introduction to Machine Learning," using a scrollable interface to demonstrate the accessibility behind machine learning, a field of computer science and data analysis. Other shortlisted interactives explore DNA building and the environment of Mars.
In the illustration category, Stephanie Rozzo won the experts' endorsement for "Weedy Seadragon Life Cycle," her graphite and acrylic paint artwork of the Australian relative of the sea horse. The people's choice selection was "The FtsZ Ring: A Multilayered Protein Network," by Jennifer E. Fairman, depicting the microscopic proteins located near where an E. coli bacterium divides. Other finalists included a 3D view of the Ebola virus and a depiction of where on the color spectrum of plumage male house finches hope to find themselves to best attract a mate.
Finally, in the posters and graphics category, the pro vote went to Wai-Man Chan's "The Trapping Mechanism of the Common Bladderwort," for her explanation of how this carnivorous aquatic plant traps its prey. The people's choice was "Antarctica: A Chromatic Paradox," by Skye Moret, a graphic showing the stunning variety of color in the species living in the waters surrounding Antarctica. Other submissions focused on exploding supernova stars and Louisiana’s Coastwide Reference Monitoring System Stations.
You can find additional STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) resources on Science NetLinks. Start with the blog post, STEAM 101: Where Art and Science Collide, and then check out some of the other outstanding STEAM projects we've profiled.