Robert Dash is a talented photographer, educator and environmentalist based in Deer Harbor, WA, United States. Dash has been fascinated since childhood by microscopic life. His academic training lies in biological sciences and human development, with a B.A in Environmental Studies from Evergreen College, and an M.A. in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College. For her new project “Show Me the Carbon”, Robert transforms the benign plant cell into a sinister scene out of a vintage horror film. He highlights the negative impact increasing greenhouse gases have on plants. These scanning electron microscope (SEM) micrographs are part of a larger series based on everyday objects around his home. Robert’s work portrays the “phenomenally small” elements of life, such as 400 pieces of pollen on the head of a pin.

Show Me the Carbon: Plants are us. Without their extraordinary prowess at translating light from the sun into digestible sugars, we’d be toast. But they’re essential in other ways as well. Tremendous concern is expressed in daily media about the increase of greenhouse gases, especially carbon, in our atmosphere. Rarely considered are the plants which wrestle with these gases, particularly since over one fourth of all carbon is taken up by plants. The gatekeeper of that carbon–the responsible structure on a plant (generally the leaf)–is the stoma (plural, stomata.) These remarkable guard cells allow carbon dioxide into the plant, and oxygen and water out. As carbon increases in the atmosphere, stomata close more, and are smaller on most plants. This points to a singular, silent intelligence of plants who are busy adapting to climate change while we argue and prevaricate. How do plants know to adjust the numbers and size of these stomata? How do they sense when to open and close stomata to regulate the flow of gasses and vapors? Several of these images suggest a human-like attitude and sentience, yet they reveal the brilliance of an entirely different kingdom of organisms from our own. Mysteries remain about the delicate balance between plants and the atmosphere, and how stomata, like harbingers, behave. Given the key role played by the humble stomata, this series celebrates their diverse shapes and beauty.

-Robert Dash