KU ichthyologist garners Nikon photography honors

Leo Smith, associate curator of ichthyology at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, and associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, recently had two photographs honored as Images of Distinction in the 45th annual 2019 Nikon Small World Photo Competition. The international contest honors the best images that showcase the “beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope.”

reddish image of fish's very long thin snout, showing the musculature thanks to a dye and fluorescent light

In 2018, Smith led a KU team that pioneered new techniques for the imaging of vertebrate skeletons. Building on existing techniques to remove specimen tissue while leaving cartilage and skeletal structures intact for study, Smith's process significantly refined specimen images through the use of gelatin and glycerin to pose specimens and to visualize the skeleton through fluorescence microscopy. The alizarin dye that stains the calcium in bones fluoresces red under the right light wavelengths, highlighting the skeletal structure with dramatic detail. This process was used with both of Smith's winning images which depict a fluorescently- stained Anoplogaster cornuta (deep-sea Fangtooth) skeleton (top image) and the fluorescently stained skull of a Lepisosteus osseous (longnose gar) fish (at left). 

View Leo Smith's images on the Nikon website:
Anoplogaster cornuta (deep-sea Fangtooth) skeleton
Lepisosteus osseous (longnose gar) fish

View all award winners on the Nikon website.