Posters & Graphics winners:
2012 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge

  • First Place: Adaptations of the owl's cervical & cephalic arteries in relation to extreme neck rotation
  • Honourable Mention: Earth evolution: the intersection of geology and biology
  • People's Choice: The pharma transport town: understanding the routes to sustainable pharmaceutical use
Date:14 February 2013 Tags:

How can an owl turn its head so far? What was the Earth like before humans came along? How do pharmaceuticals end up in the environment? Questions like these can be answered – but only with serious study and a detailed understanding of the problem. Conveying that level of complexity is what this year’s Posters do best, whether it’s through multiple views of an owl’s bones and arteries, or a detailed overview of the history of the planet, starting back 4,6 billion years ago. Here are the winning Posters & Graphics entries:

First Place
Adaptations of the owl’s cervical & cephalic arteries in relation to extreme neck rotation (see image 1)
Instead of moving their large, tubular eyes in their sockets, owls swivel their heads 270°. This poster explains the likely mechanism for the eerie ability. The team obtained 12 dead birds from educational centres in Michigan and Missouri. Then they created three-dimensional images of the owls’ blood vessels and bones with a CT scanner, and injected the birds with radio-opaque dye and liquefied red plastic to preserve their arteries before dissecting them. On close examination, the owls revealed surprising secrets. The researchers found swellings in the birds’ arteries that likely act as reservoirs for pooling blood when the head is turned, says Fabian de Kok-Mercado at Johns Hopkins University, as well as “backup” arteries that could help supply the brain when other arteries are pinched.

Credit: Fabian de Kok-Mercado, Michael Habib, Tim Phelps, Lydia Gregg, and Philippe Gailloud, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Art as Applied to Medicine

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Honourable Mention
Earth evolution: the intersection of geology and biology (see image 2)
All 4,6 billion years of Earth’s history are squeezed onto this poster. The whole history of land vertebrates from dinosaurs to humans is barely visible in the top right corner. Because of its relatively young age and minor role in planetary evolution, Pangaea didn’t even make the cut. Far more prominent is the evolution of photosynthetic bacteria, which enabled the evolution of many new types of metabolism, including our own by generating oxygen. The poster draws connections between biological and geological processes in Earth’s history, such as mass extinctions, plate tectonics, and the greenhouse effect, says Mark Nielsen, a scientific education fellow at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, who helped design the graphic. Whereas many classic visualizations of life on Earth begin just 540 million years ago, when large animals became abundant, “Earth Evolution” tells a much longer story, stretching back 3,8 billion years to the earliest evidence of life.

Credit: Mark Nielsen, Satoshi Amagai, HHMI; Bill Pietsch, Davey Thomas, Astronaut 3 Media Group; and Andy Knoll, Harvard University

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People’s Choice
The pharma transport town: understanding the routes to sustainable pharmaceutical use (see image 3)
This information graphic shows the complex transport routes of pharmaceuticals in the environment, and considers psychological influences upon drug usage and disposal. It illustrates the cyclical nature of pharmaceutical transport, highlighting an extensive range of points at which interventions could minimize environmental contamination. It also recognizes knowledge gaps – such as to what extent pharmaceuticals are active upon unintended consumption in food or water.

Credit: Will Stahl-Timmins, Mathew White, Michael Depledge, and Lora Fleming, European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School; Clare Redshaw, University of Plymouth

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Source: NSF and Science

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