Smithsonian Museum Exhibit Highlights Jamie Baldwin's Research


Baldwin-Fergus with the model of Paraphronima gracilis

Jamie Baldwin-Fergus received her Ph.D. from Duke Biology in 2012 (Johnsen Lab) and took a post-doctoral position at the Smithsonian Institute.  There, her research into the strange eyes of Paraphronima gracilis, a transparent creature that lives in the deep ocean, inspired a new exhibit in the Sant Ocean Hall.  Paraphronima's four eyes have a "seriously weird" structure which maximizes vision in a dim environment while minimizing the visibility of the eye itself.  Having four eyes, two facing up and two to the sides, is not so unusual in this group of animals.  But Paraphronima has 32 separate retinas shaped like tiny pyramids, arranged in two lines along its head and colored orange.  These allow the animal to group separate images or not, depending on the changing light conditions.  For the exhibit, Smithsonian modelmaker Carolyn Thome created a computer model that was then printed by a 3D printer in three sections: inner eye, outer eye, and body and legs.  Great work by Jamie, who untangled one of nature's rich oddities, and by the Smithsonian staff who translated it into a fascinating exhibit.  Bravo!

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3D printing a model of Paraphronima gracilis