Ruane Center for the Humanities

Ruane Window

This magnificent window graces the Great Room in the Ruane Center for the Humanities at Providence College. The window was designed by artist Sylvia Nicholas, a stained glass master who lives in New Hampshire. Sylvia Nicholas also designed the stained glass windows in the St. Dominic Chapel, as well as several sculptures located throughout the campus. This masterful display of major figures in philosophy, history, science, and other areas of the humanities, was installed in the Fall 2017 semester, following the building’s dedication four years earlier. To see details of the individual panes, simply explore the galleries for each row, below. How wonderful to see Darwin next to Gandhi and Shakespeare next to Galileo! These are the sorts of juxtapositions one has the liberty to explore in a liberal arts education.

Row 1 (Top)


Row 2 (Second from top)


Row 3 (Second from bottom)


Row 4 (Bottom)

Biological Imaging–Part I

Newborn squid

Retirement has its perks. In my case, I can audit courses at Providence College tuition-free. I decided to take advantage of this benefit during the Fall 2017 semester, and enrolled in Biological Imaging. “What’s that?” I’m frequently asked; “Photography through microscopes” is my answer.

Grass seed head

So far we have used stereo, or disecting microscopes and compound microscopes. How it works is that you remove one of the eyepieces on the scope and replace it with your camera. I have been using a Camranger to control the camera from a computer.

Sand dollar

We have mostly been photographing marine organism, but did get some early practice with prepared slides and flowers.

Scallop eyes

There are several challenges in this type of photography. First, controlling the light and white balance can be difficult. Another challenge, due to the extreme magnification, is that depth of field is extremely shallow. I have found good results with focus stacking, however, which provides one way of overcoming this limitation.

Enjoy this initial collection of images under the microscope!

Osprey Monitoring

Osprey in Flight

Every week, from April through August, volunteers in Rhode Island head forth to check on Osprey nests. The monitoring program, overseen by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island (ASRI), is a model for efforts in other states. The monitoring of Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) in RI began in 1977 by the RI Department of Environmental Management, and was taken over by ASRI in 2010. With one exception, data on Osprey nesting has been collected every year by citizen volunteers. Osprey numbers have increased annually, once the use of DDT was outlawed. The pesticide DDT accumulated in the food chain, causing major problems for birds like Osprey and Bald Eagles (among other species). DDT caused the shells of eggs to be thin, so thin that the weight of adult birds crushed them as the adults tried to incubate the eggs. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring highlighted these impacts, as well as the harmful effects of other pesticides, helping to jump start the modern environmental movement. Once DDT was outlawed in the United States, Osprey, Bald Eagles, and other species began to return in numbers and to locations they had previously enjoyed. Monitoring and reintroduction programs began. I am responsible for monitoring four nests this year, three in Hopkinton, RI, and one in West Greenwich, RI. Three of the four are active, meaning they are occupied and the adult birds appear to be incubating eggs or attending to young. In all cases it is not possible to see into the nests, so I have to judge from the adults’ behavior.

Osprey have several popular names: fish hawk, fish eagle, river hawk, and even sea hawk. As these names suggest, they eat fish exclusively, but are neither eagles nor hawks. Rather, Osprey are the sole species in their biological family. They are a holarctic species, meaning they are found throughout the northern continents of the world. Osprey occur on every continent except Antarctica, although they do not breed in South America, heading south in winter months from their nesting territories in North America. Osprey always fly with their wings crooked in an “M” shape and have a dark patch on their “elbows”, actually the equivalent of their wrists. They have scales on their toes that help them grasp fish, which they capture by diving. Unlike eagles and hawks, Osprey can rotate one toe backwards, better enabling them to hold their prey with two toes forward, two backward.

Looking for the King

King Eider – #3

Recently I went looking for the king–the King Eider, that is. King Eiders are an Arctic species, usually seen only in Alaska in the United States. Very rarely they will wander to the shores of New England in the winter, however. Over 25 years ago one was seen in Rhode Island waters, off the shores of Sachuest Point National Wildlife refuge. That was the first one I had ever seen until this winter, when a male King Eider started floating along the Cape Cod Canal with a bunch of Common Eiders.

King Eider with Common Eiders

Common Eiders are slightly larger than the King, but not as colorful, lovely though they be. The eiders were in a large raft hanging around Herring Run, where it flows into the canal, just south of Bourne, Massachusetts, on the west side of the canal. It was easy to get close to them, as they seemed not to mind people sitting on the rocks beside the water. The Common Eiders were showing some dominance and pair bonding behavior, as males chased one another and lifted up in display of their breasts. Young males were also among the group, the first year males having more dark areas in their plumage than the second year males. Also among the eiders were some Red-breasted Mergansers.

Common Eiders

Male Common Eider – #2

Enjoy these pictures of the King and his cohort.

Fun on a Snowy Day

Thursday in Rhode Island was a very snowy day, with over a foot of snow arriving at my house. I have always wanted to try to photograph snowflakes, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to try. Got out my 105mm macro lens, put it on my Nikon D500 crop sensor camera, stacked on all the extension tubes I could find, and even added two close up filters to the front of the lens. After all, snowflakes are really tiny little things. Well, I discovered that I will need lots and lots of practice with that rig, since the depth of field is practically nonexistent. Will try again another time.

As I was standing in the sunroom, which is not insulated, I noticed that globules of snow had formed on the door. I stripped down the rig to just the macro lens, and illuminated the globules from an angle with a strong LED flashlight. That yielded a couple of interesting photos, which I share with you here. Enjoy.