Portraits of the creatures in Michael LaBarbera’s biology lab. Plus: a fund to support undergraduate science research.
Professor Michael LaBarbera is almost never without his camera, even—or perhaps especially—when he’s among the creatures in his lab. Students are accustomed to the sight of him at his tripod, squinting through a long zoom lens at the miniature marine worlds inside his aquariums, trying to capture a bryozoan with its crown of feeding tentacles extended, waiting for the light to hit a comb jelly just right, watching the water drift through a sea anemone. Some of the animals LaBarbera photographs are truly tiny: the Cladonema radiatum jellyfish is only a millimeter or two in diameter. Heterochaerus sargassi flatworms can be even smaller. In LaBarbera’s pictures, you can see every minute, glistening detail of their anatomy.
The photos shown below are a few of the many hundreds of photos LaBarbera took of creatures he and his students examined in lab during fall quarter’s Invertebrate Biology class.
This December LaBarbera is retiring from the University. He plans to keep his hand in, teaching a class here and there, but he’ll have time, he says, to devote himself more fully to his photography. He got serious about it ten years ago, when he got his first digital camera and started taking close-ups of bugs. “I was back to being a 12-year-old again,” he says. “Just the marvelously alien shapes of these animals that first captivated me.”
LaBarbera also is organizing a fund to support science research by students in the College—money to help pay for supplies and some equipment and to help defray the costs of traveling to field sites. In general, LaBarbera says, College students don’t have research grants. “If an undergrad does research”—and more than half do, he says—“they are dependent on their mentor’s lab for everything.” He hopes the fund will allow undergraduates more independence, help them learn how to apply for money, and ease the strain on faculty lab resources. To find out more about the project, contact LaBarbera at firstname.lastname@example.org.