Rising prices, biodiversity win at photo competition


Man rides bicycle through rural Mexico in Jesus Moreno’s ‘Hoy No Hoy Gasolina.” (Photo courtesy of Dana Thompson)

Raleigh Hightower, Lifestyle Editor

In an opportunity to exhibit their research, students across several different majors and academic disciplines came together to participate in the University’s fifth Images of Research Competition.

The Images of Research Competition is a juried photography competition that challenges students to try and capture the essence of their academic research through photography. The contest is open to all students.

Murray State Libraries in collaboration with the Office of Research and Creative Activity has been in charge of administering the competition since its beginning in spring 2020.

Associate Professor of University Libraries Dana Thompson, who originally came up with the idea to bring the competition to campus, served as the head of this year’s competition jury.

Thompson, alongside Assistant Professor of Photography and New Media Cintia Segovia Figueroa, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology Laura Sullivan-Beckers and Director of University Galleries T. Michael Martin, selected this year’s winners.

Submissions were evaluated on the basis of overall originality or creativity, aesthetic appeal of the image, relationship between the image and entrant’s research and the clarity of written description and title.

“I personally look for a strong connection between the image and the description, looking for the specific tie to the student’s research to determine my rankings,” Thompson said. “Each of this semester’s winners and honorable mentions has a strong tie to research a student is doing at Murray State University.”

The jury panel selected senior graphic design major Jesus Gallegos Moreno as the competition’s first place winner. Moreno’s image, “Hoy No Hoy Gasolina,” explores the impact of rising gasoline prices in developing countries like Mexico.

Moreno’s image, shot in front of a primary school in the Mexican village he grew up in, depicts a man who is riding a bicycle. Moreno explains in his image description how gasoline prices have changed how transportation looks in rural Mexico.

“Some of the rural parts of these countries, to be specific, have stopped buying new vehicles and moved to more conservative, or gas efficient, methods of transportation,” Moreno wrote.

Moreno also said the rising gas prices have led to gas stations reducing their hours. Specifically, in rural regions, they may only be open a few days a week. Accordingly, his image was shot on one of the days the local gas stations were closed.

The second place image was shot by senior psychology major Vara Ramayanam. Ramayanam’s “The Healing Power of Flowers” explores the beneficial links that have been observed between flowers and psychological well-being.

Ramayanam captured the pink magnolias showcased in her image in front of Faculty Hall.

“I have always had an appreciation for the beauty and diversity of flowers,” Ramayanam said. “I have spent time admiring flowers in gardens or parks, and over time, this appreciation has grown into a desire to learn more about them.”

During the course of her research, Ramayanam has attributed benefits, such as decreased stress, improved mood and increased productivity, to flower exposure.

The competition’s third place winner was submitted by graduate student Megan Zerger and titled “Colorado Tiger.” Zerger received her Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife and conservation biology from Murray State in May 2022.

Zerger’s research explores the role of hormone production in the severity of chytridiomycosis, a deadly disease that is responsible for global amphibian population declines and extinctions.

“Colorado Tiger” depicts the Arizona tiger salamander, which is the only salamander species found in Colorado. Zerger said in her image description the salamander in the image was found during the course of her data collection for her master’s thesis.

The competition also recognized two honorable mentions: “Hopeful, Not Helpless” by senior earth and environmental science major Vanessa Sivils and “Pick up your feelings” by junior studio art major Wesley Hammer.

Sivils depicts a 6-year-old bobcat named Barkley in her image. The image and Sivils’ research explores the lives of animals that are kept in captivity for various reasons.

The bobcat pictured in the image has lived most of its life in captivity in Land Between the Lakes.

“As an 8-week-old kitten, [Barkley] was struck by a car that shattered his back legs and lower spine,” Sivils wrote. “He made a successful recovery over the long course of a year, but his time in rehab has rendered him imprinted on humans. Because of his familiarity, he is no longer a candidate for release.”

Hammer’s image, shot at Nashville’s Play Dance Bar, depicts a drag performer named Nichole Ellington Dupree. Hammer’s research and image explores gender presentation and identity.

“As a transgender individual, I’ve always loved being able to explore the LGBT community and showcase the joy of being queer,” Hammer said in. “It is important for me to showcase this joy because many people forget that we are human too… I want to show how the government can not stop people from being the best version of themselves.”

To see all of the winning images from this year’s Images of Research competition, visit digitalcommons.murraystate.edu/steeplechase.