Images of Research Contest








Knowledge is beautiful. USask researchers know it better than anyone.

Each year, our researchers capture the impact of their research - how their research made a difference to society, the economy, and global challenges – with an image and a simple description.

The results are nothing short of amazing.
Submit your images by February 29, 2024 for a chance to win cash prizes!

The Details

Submissions will  be judged by multidisciplinary juries comprising students, faculty, staff, and community members across campus for each category to choose a winner, a runner-up, and an overall Grand Prize winner on the basis of:

  1. Aesthetic appeal of the image
  2. Creativity
  3. Degree to which the image showcases the entrant’s research
  4. Clarity and creativity of written description and title in conveying the research impact.

Images may be submitted into one of five categories:

  • From the Field: Images which demonstrate the researcher’s experience doing field work anywhere in the world
  • More than Meets the Eye: Images which reveal the subject in greater detail than is possible with the human eye (eg. x-rays, creative expression, microscopic images, computer models, etc.)
  • Community Impact: Images which represent research done with partners that benefits communities.
  • Research in Action: Images which demonstrate what the researcher's work is all about
  • Arts in Focus: Images which represent the researcher’s artistic work with a focus on music, drama, art and art history, and the humanities.

Winners will be selected from each category, PLUS for: 

  • Viewers' Choice: Images which received the highest number of votes during a public voting period
  • Best Description: Images accompanied by the clearest, most informative and most vibrant descriptions and titles

Submissions due February 29, 2024 (4:00PM CST)



The 2023 Winners

Organized by Research Profile and Impact, the ninth annual contest featured:

  • 143 image entries in five submission categories from students, faculty, staff and alumni representing 12 colleges and schools
  • A total of seven judging panels made up of students, staff, and faculty
  • Over 2,250 public votes cast in the Viewers' Choice category
  • Over 16,000 views of the contest

Treading on Thin Ice

by Dr. Kayla Buhler (PhD), recent alumna in Veterinary Microbiology

(Grand Prize)

The Canadian Arctic is warming at four times the global average, creating many ecological changes for the far North. Our lab works on wildlife diseases that are influenced by the effects of climate change. Ironically, when we do fieldwork in the Arctic, we must also cope with the challenges that climate change creates for our efforts. Here, we form a single file line on our snowmobiles to safely cross large frozen lakes on the tundra in search of fox dens. Early spring and warming temperatures complicate our search, as the thaw makes transportation challenging on thin ice.     

Funders: NSERC, ArcticNet, Weston Family Foundation, Earth Rangers

Developing Drama

by Prof. Carla Orosz in Drama, College of Arts and Science

(Winner, Arts in Focus)          

Through my research project, Training the Eye, a team of theatre artists were gathered to create different scenarios on stage and examine the necessary design elements to support diverse skin tones.  Through this research we discovered the colour in the colour in relation to the participant’s skin tones and used this knowledge in the other design elements such as set, lighting, costume, and makeup.  In this image we wanted to create a tableau of characters in a heightened drama by creating a strong visual image around them.  This was reenforced by highly saturated colours in the backdrop and lighting and only black and white costumes.  

Funder:  SSHRC


by Master of Fine Arts student Demilade Otayemi

(Runner-up, Arts in Focus)     

I created this sculptural installation as a part of a research program at the University of Saskatchewan where observe engineers creating a sailboat cradle that helps children learn to sail on dry land in order to gain inspiration for my art and bring a social and cultural perspective to their engineering design processes. I tried to link unique childhood experiences with what the children will experience using the sailboat cradle. As much as this piece was created with the children in mind, it is also a reminder for engineers to focus on the experiential part of their innovations just like artists. By focusing on the experience and emotions of using this solution, I aim to bring a new perspective to the engineering design process and inspire engineers to consider the social and cultural impact of their designs.

Funder: Dr Lori Bradford, CRC research program

In her reflection

by Dr. Kayla Buhler (PhD), recent alumna in Veterinary Microbiology

(Winner, Community Impact)

Many are familiar with the concept of one health, an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates human, animal, and environmental health. The world was recently rocked by the pandemic, which highlighted how much wildlife health and habitat encroachment impacts human health. Here, a female fox from Nunavut has been sedated for a short period of time to provide blood and other samples that serve as an indicator of disease risk for humans and dogs occupying nearby communities. Her health provides a reflection of our health.   

Funders: NSERC, ArcticNet, Weston Family Foundation, Earth Rangers

Managing River Monsters in the Amazon Jungle

by Alex Pelletier, Toxicology doctoral student

(Runner-up, Community Impact)

Deep within the remote Amazon jungle, indigenous communities along the banks of the Rio Juruá work together with scientists from all over the world to manage one of the largest populations of giant air-breathing fishes called Arapaima. Communities keep diligent records of fishing events and share their data with other communities who live hours or even days away by boat. I rose from my sleeping hammock to find an overnight fishing crew returning with a healthy haul of Arapaima, many of them over 200 pounds each. Hauls like this are rare throughout the Amazon because Arapaima are overfished. But cooperative management among the communities of the Juruá make harvests like this possible.

Funder: Global Water Futures

Adelie penguins of the Antarctic Peninsula

by Prof. William Patterson, in Geological Sciences, College of Arts and Science.

(Winner, Research in Action)

Dr. William Patterson quantifying the population decline of Adelie penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula. Adelie populations have decreased by 50-70% during the last half of the 20th century to the present. Patterson and colleague Dr. Steven Emslie of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington have discovered that whaling and sealing operations have been important drivers of penguin populations.

Funder: National Science Foundation (USA)

What does the fox say?

by Dr. Kayla Buhler (PhD), recent alumna in Veterinary Microbiology

(Runner-up, Research in Action)        

Many of you have heard of this song that overtook the internet almost a decade ago. Most of my research focuses on wildlife diseases in Nunavut, but I noticed some very interesting sounds while working on arctic fox dens. In general, dogs and other canids with strong family units are thought to have more complex vocalization with lots of quiet sounds for close range communication, while solitary foxes should have a simple vocal repertoire with loud noises for long distance communication. However, video recordings on dens revealed many unique sounds that foxes make while rearing their young, including a range of low frequency noises between parents and pups. So, what does the fox say? The truth is - a lot!

Funders: NSERC, ArcticNet, Weston Family Foundation, Earth Rangers


by Anastasiia Nykonenko, biology doctoral student

(Winner, From the Field)       

Family is everything. We, humans, are not the only creatures sharing this value. Here I portray a family group of iconic Sable Island horses. An alert stallion on the left is the relentless guardian of his favorite mare (on the right) and their two daughters. How long are they going to stay all together before the youngsters decide to disperse? How are their relationships going to develop throughout the life? And, the most importantly, what are the large scale consequences of the social bonding for individuals and population as a whole? These are some of the questions I am willing to answer with my research, bridging the gap between sociality, fitness and population dynamics.

Funders: Mitacs, NSERC

Cautiously Curious Caribou

by Cody Malone, Veterinary Microbiology doctoral student.

(Runner-up, From the Field)  

These two caribou pictured in the Queen Maud Migratory Bird Sanctuary on mainland Nunavut are seen standing in front of a snow-covered esker, giving the illusion of a cloud-filled sky. These barren-ground caribou have very little human-exposure due to their habitat range being in areas sparsely populated by humans; because of this they were very curious. The caribou would inquisitively run towards us and then runaway and continuously repeat this cycle the entire time we were in their vicinity. Caribou are inextricably linked to the surviving and thriving of Inuit in the Canadian North.  

Funders: ArcticNet, Polar Continental Shelf Program, University of Saskatchewan - Western College of Veterinary Medicine

Hunger Games: May the Neurons be Ever in Your "Flavour"

by Narsimha Pujari, Veterinary biomedical sciences doctoral student.

(Winner, More than Meets the Eye; Runner-up, Best Description; Runner-up, Viewers’ Choice)

Did you know that a fruit fly's brain can unlock the mysteries of the human mind? Despite their size, fruit flies show many human-like behaviours. These include picking sugary foods when hungry, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and following a healthy, protein-rich diet. We plan to understand these human-like behaviours by studying the intricate networks in the fruit fly brain. This stunning confocal image showcases six neurons (depicted in green) in a fruit fly brain (set as a blue background), each extending its long tail-like axons. These neurons direct the fly to pick protein and sugar when hungry and sleep on a regular schedule. They are like the hypothalamus and pituitary of the human brain, which regulates vital functions.

Funders: NSERC, WCVM

Meet Your Local Backyard Buddy

by Georgiana Antochi-Crihan, Plant Sciences masters student

(Runner-up, More than Meets the Eye)

Did you know that there are an estimated 7 million insect species on our planet? Insects play many roles in our ecosystem, including pollination, pest control, and nutrient recycling. This little friend is a thistle tortoise beetle (Cassida rubiginosa). They are very effective at reducing Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) populations and are found locally in our backyard! Interestingly, this beetle was unexpectedly found in the middle of a wheat field. Despite the vast quantity of insects worldwide, little is known about their distribution throughout Saskatchewan. My project aims to fill this knowledge gap by inventorying the insect diversity of our prairies. By gaining insight into the true distribution of insects across the prairies, we can better implement insect management strategies.

Funders: MITACS, Ducks Unlimited Canada, SaskWheat

So you say you want to be a vet?

by DVM student Ruth MacLean

(Winner, Best Description)     

There are many times in the midst of learning that I catch myself pondering my career choice. One such instance occurred as I, a non Saskatchewanian in the cool March temperatures of the prairies, was out in the field attempting to evaluate our patient, a grey mare in a paddock. It was between battering winds and icy hail that I found myself attempting to find an area in between icicles to place my stethoscope, frustrated with my inability to auscultate her lungs due to the glass like exterior which had formed over her chest. It was then that I stopped to consider my situation: here stood a magnificent animal whose body temperature literally turned the cold harsh conditions which surrounded her to ice, and once again, I was in love!

Happy Birth Little Chicky- You are GIFT-ED!

by Mihiprabha Rathnayake, doctoral student in Anatomic Pathology

(Winner, Viewers’ Choice)

Candling is a method used to observe the growth and development of an embryo inside an egg which uses a bright light source behind the egg to show details through the shell. Fully developed chick will come out from the eggshell on day twenty-one. This photo was taken while candling just before hatch, and the little chick was trying to break the shell using its beak.  My research is on delivering probiotics into chicken embryos by spraying probiotics on the eggshell to protect neonatal chicks from infectious diseases like Salmonella. This 20 days old chicken embryo was already GIFT-ED with good bacteria (probiotics) so that it is ready to fight against infections. There’s no doubt that it’s a HAPPY BIRTH!!!!

Funders: Research Council, Result Driven Agriculture Research and Ministry of Agriculture, Saskatchewan. Supervisor's grants.

Submissions from Past Competitions

See all submissions from previous years.

2022 Competition Winning Entries

Biohazardous Birth

Grand Prize Winner

By Nicholas Bauer, undergraduate student in biomedical sciences

Funder: Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada

In 1966, the iconic biohazard symbol was designed to instill immediate fear in whoever saw it. Looking under the microscope, I found uterine tissue shaped like the biohazard symbol and I was immediately reminded of the fears people face during pregnancy. Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death, disability, and developmental delays. Despite these burdens, around half of preterm births occur due to unknown causes. In this cross-section of the uterus obtained by epifluorescence microscopy, proteins which may have a role in initiating labour have been made to fluorescently glow. By investigating these proteins, we can possibly learn to predict and even prevent preterm birth – helping to put an end to the hazards of pregnancy.

A Lousy Problem - Literally!

Community Impact (winner)

By Kayla Buhler, PhD student in veterinary microbiology

Funders: Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Weston Family Foundation, ArcticNet and Polar Knowledge Canada 

Back in 2019, I noticed Arctic foxes at my field site with strange fur loss. When the pandemic hit, I was unable to travel to the Arctic, but scientists and trappers from both Nunavut and Norway (Svalbard) were observing similar fur loss. In 2021, I partnered with trappers in Cambridge Bay and Gjoa Haven to identify the reason for this fur loss, as it impacts the quality of pelts. Turns out that it was a lousy problem! Literally, lice were recovered from foxes in Canada and Norway, which turned out to be a brand-new cryptic species that travels with foxes as they disperse between continents across the Arctic sea ice. An important find for northern trappers! 

Out of the Ashes

From the Field (winner)

By Susanna Barnes, faculty member in archaeology and anthropology

Funder: Australian Research Council 

Over the course of three to five days at the end of the dry season (Aug-Sept) in Saburai, Timor-Leste, men, women and children are involved in the cutting and burning of grass and woody plants to prepare the ground for cultivation. As the community moves through the landscape, women and children gather berries and other wild foods, while men hunt wild pigs, civet cats and small monkeys. These are taken to a place called ‘La Ta’, where at the end of the burning period, called ‘An Ini’, a communal ceremony is held to pray for a successful planting season. Maligned and misunderstood, swidden agriculture is critical to the social, spiritual and material well-being of the community. 

Alternative Reality

Arts in Focus (winner)

By Narges Porsandekhial, master’s student in fine arts

Searching for new ways of seeing the reality we live in, my research focuses on altered unavailable realities based on real-world material. I believe photography captures a fixed version of reality, events, and mistakes that once captured, cannot be changed or erased. Questioning the chaos and unfortunate events in our world, I chose to play with the concept of photography and reality. This piece includes thousands and thousands of 2 to 3 centimeters photography elements. I have photographed different regions of the University of Saskatchewan's campus, printed the photos, and tore them into thousands of tiny pieces. Symbolically tearing apart the reality and rearranging all of its components, I have created an alternative reality, out of the existing one. Though it doesn’t exist, though it is fragmented, at least it’s free of real-world modalities. 


More than Meets the Eye (winner)

By Phillip Harder, research associate in hydrology

Funder: Global Water Futures 

Our world is composed of gradients in time and space and how we manage our gradients will determine our future. The transition from cropland to riparian vegetation, to macrophytes, and to open water at a prairie wetland near Saskatoon, SK, emphasizes the tenuous interface between production agriculture and water quality and quantity impacts on the Canadian Prairies. 

The Elements Distribution in CDC Arborg Oat

Research in Action (winner)

By Ganqi Deng, PhD student in animal and poultry science

This picture shows the distribution of sulfur, zinc and manganese elements in Arborg Oat. These colours were co-plotted and their colour intensity adjusted to reveal co-occurrence of elements of interest. The green, blue and red areas stand for sulfur, zinc and manganese, respectively. Our study mainly focused on impact of oat varieties on elements distribution and differences of molecular structure, and we want to investigate the impact of oat variety and molecular structure spectral features on animal nutrition. Next, the relationship between differences of elements distribution, molecular structure, and degradation and digestion of oats will be studied. 

Life Holds On

Best Description (winner)

By Jordan Shirley, master’s student in soil science

Here no heart is found – but there is a pulse. This young pea presents an opportunity to solve a world-wide pulse crop disease known as Aphanomyces root rot and improve sustainability within agricultural practices. Dwelling among the roots of this plant are symbiotic nitrogen-fixing root bacteria which are being evaluated as potential biotechnological tools to thwart disease without the need for chemical application. By studying interactions among beneficial microorganisms in the rhizosphere and harmful plant pathogens we may learn - from the ground up - novel ways in which to improve our world. 

Mutual Gratitude - Exchanging Caring

Viewer's Choice (winner)

By Michele Monroy-Valle, PhD student in nutrition epidemiology

Funder: Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship 

While collecting data in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, we learned about the struggle of participant’s families to put food on the table because of COVID-19 restrictions. Therefore, I organized donations for food hampers, and soup mix packages. I was lucky to receive donations from people from USask that know my project, friends from Guatemala, neighbours, and local Canadian aid organization. In the picture, a participant with special needs is incredibly happy and grateful to receive her donation. We need sustainable solutions to assure Food Security in the population, but these hampers help to alleviate two weeks of food scarcity for the families. I am grateful that the people from Chichicastenango welcome and trust me to collaborate with them during the pandemic lockdown. 

Rushing Water

Community Impact (runner-up)

By Leanne Read, undergraduate student in fine arts

Flowing Water is an image that I captured while creating the collaborative animated short “Water You Waiting For”. Scientists associated with the Global Water Futures initiative were interviewed by me and Master of Fine Arts in music student Ricardo Martins. We then translated what we heard into a digital animation and musical score under the guidance of professors Lori Bradford (College of Engineering and School of Environment and Sustainability), Dean McNeill (Department of Music), and Lisa Birke (Department of Art & Art History). The animation follows a water drop as it takes us on a journey across Canada to highlight the 16 most pressing water security issues that are bringing the delicate balance of water sustainability to the tipping point but with a resounding chorus of hope.

Weed Problem: A Never-ending Story

From the Field (runner-up)

By Praveen Sapkota, PhD student in plant science

Funders: BASF 

Weeds that go unchecked are a primary cause of low crop output. Weed management is essential for ensuring future food production. The secret to minimize weed invasion without hurting crops is to target the worst weeds with the best herbicide. The area in the photo was in Vanscoy, Saskatchewan, where my colleagues and I were spraying herbicide to reduce weeds in lentils. We employed post-emergence weed management techniques, which allowed us to screen herbicide-tolerant lentil varieties with good yields for future generations. 


Arts in Focus (runner-up)

By Louisa Ferguson, master’s student in fine arts

My practice is a personal cultivation of a meaningful relationship with the more than human world that surrounds me. My works are gestures that emerge and take shape from the intimate act of witnessing where the agency of the natural world connects with mine. I create sculpture and installations that invite contemplation and awareness of our interconnectedness to the local landscape. Using local material such plants, clays and naturally occurring pigments, I create sculptures that serve as reliquaries of witnessing, remembering and meditation. Typha, a site-specific installation, invites engagement with a Saskatchewan slough. It documents the symbiotic relationship between cattails and water. Over time, the ice melts and the cattails return to the earth, nourishing the slough, leaving no trace. 

Play on Sunlight

More than Meets the Eye (runner-up)

By Renita Mishal D'Souza, PhD student in chemistry

Funder: Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada

The amount of sunlight the earth receives in an hour and half is enough for the entire world’s energy consumption for a year! Solar cells convert the absorbed solar energy into the electric energy. Of the different types of solar cells, Perovskite solar cell is a type of thin-film cell and is named after their characteristic crystal structure. The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) image here clearly shows the crystals of a pristine perovskite material. My research focuses on studying the stability of this material in operational conditions.

Prairie Quilt

Research in Action (runner-up)

By Phillip Harder, research associate in hydrology

Funder: Global Water Futures 

The historical legacy of the Dominion Land Survey and the interactions with prairie hydrology and modern agricultural results in a complex mosaic of land use and hydrological expression. Annual crop rotations and extreme weather patterns drive the temporal variability of this very dynamic landscape. Climate change and evolving agricultural practises will further continue to drive variability in this landscape and the work at USask is needed to develop better understanding, predictions, and adaptions to ensure the continued viability of the complex food and water systems that have developed. 

New Life Reveals All

Best Description (runner-up)

By Kayla Buhler, PhD student in veterinary microbiology

Funders: Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Weston Family Foundation, ArcticNet and Polar Knowledge Canada

When you think about climate change in the Arctic, pictures of polar bears and sea ice loss probably come to mind. You may not have thought about infectious diseases, even though they are emerging as temperatures warm. We have very little information about the diseases that northern wildlife encounter. So how do we measure any changes? This Arctic fox mom and her pups are part of a long-term disease study in Nunavut. Her pups, especially, provide a snapshot of the diseases that they encounter during the summer months. A little bit of blood collected from litters each year helps to build a picture of how climate impacts disease transmission in the Arctic. 

The Big Twist

Viewer's Choice (runner-up)

By Hiruni Kathyana Deeyagahage, PhD student in veterinary microbiology

Funders: USask Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund, Zoetis and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada

Here we have the crystal structure (side and top view) of an antimicrobial peptide (AMP) we recently discovered in our lab. The 17 amino acid helical AMPs are self-assembling into a unique twisted fibril structure while forming a pore with two ring systems, an outer (blue) and an inner ring (red). This porous structure embeds itself into the bacterial membrane resulting in eventual cell death.