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Gargantuan Ants, Ancient Trees - Penn SUMR Scholars Visit Morris Arboretum

  • Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Photography by Hoag Levins

The field trip of the University of Pennsylvania's current crop of Summer Undergraduate Minority Research (SUMR) scholars to the Morris Arboretum was made all the more unique by a special exhibit of gigantic insect sculptures that turned parts of the sprawling grounds into what resembled the set of a 1950s "monster ant" SciFi movie. The works by Long Island artist David Rogers are dinosaur-sized wooden figures of ants, a 20-foot-high praying mantis, a grasshopper as long as a Volkswagen, a Daddy Long Legs spider large enough for 20 people to stand beneath, and various other entomological wonders. And that was only the beginning. The students also got to wander through soaring stands of sequoia and redwood, cavort in nets strung through a forest canope and climb into a bird's nest large enough for several humans.

    • Arboretum SciFi
    • Arboretum SciFi
    • The field trip of the University of Pennsylvania's current crop of Summer Undergraduate Minority Research (SUMR) scholars to the Morris Arboretum was made all the more unique by a special exhibit of gigantic insect sculptures that turned parts of the sprawling grounds into what resembled the set of a 1950s "monster ant" SciFi movie.  (See companion story: SUMR Scholars at Morris Arboretum)

    • Wooden Insects
    • Wooden Insects
    • The works by Long Island artist David Rogers are dinosaur-sized wooden figures  made from curved clusters of willow boughs accented by other parts carved from wood -- like this ant's eyes of red cedar.  The exhibit, which places huge insect figures across the Arboretum's sprawling grounds, began in April and ends on August 31.

    • Praying Mantis
    • Praying Mantis
    • The largest of the lot was a praying mantis which weighs 1,200 pounds and measures nearly 20 feet high at the tips of its antennae. Here, Penn SUMR scholars Julio Albarracin and Pearl Eni demonstrate their own version of a praying mantis stance.

    • Entomological Group Portrait
    • Entomological Group Portrait
    • Penn SUMR scholars line up for an entomological group portrait. Top row: Neel Koyawala, Penn; Aris Mourelatos, high school intern; Nadia Ogene, Penn; Randall Burson, Swarthmore; Pearl Eni, University of Pittsburgh; Julio Albarracin, Penn; Rose Aka, St. John's University; and Safa Browne, LDI Research Coordinator. Bottom row: Maximilian Pany, Swarthmore; Jasmeet Samra, Swarthmore; Aaron Landrum, Penn; Alexis Van Eyken, Penn; Joanne Levy, Director, SUMR Program; Tara Fernandez, Penn; Doris Arevalo, University of Illinois; Karlos Bledsoe, Princeton; and Shanae Johnson, Coordinator, SUMR Program.

    • Huge Grasshopper
    • Huge Grasshopper
    • Artist David Rogers has specialized in crafting wooden insect sculptures of huge size since 1993. He has also specialized in exhibiting his work in arboretums across the country, which report significantly increased ticket sales. Rogers works in local wood he gathers from Long Island forests. This grasshopper is made from black walnut.

    • Eerie Scene
    • Eerie Scene
    • In this eerie scene, a gargantuan Daddy Longlegs stands in the foreground while a giant ant maraudes across the lawn between the far trees.

    • Behemoth Spider
    • Behemoth Spider
    • A contingent of Penn SUMR scholars demonstrates that more than 20 people can fit beneath the behemoth spider's legs.

    • Lady Bug
    • Lady Bug
    • A Lady Bug made of bent willow boughs and carved black walnut stands guard along a walkway.

    • Spider Web
    • Spider Web
    • Hung in a cluster of trees, a spider larger than your head awaits his prey on a web made of willow boughs and red cedar.

    • Awed Youngster
    • Awed Youngster
    • Younger visitors are clearly awed by the towering creepy-crawlies at the University of Pennsylvania's Morris Arboretum located on the northern edge of Philadelphia.

    • Sculpture Gardens
    • Sculpture Gardens
    • Penn SUMR scholars Karlos Bledsoe of Princeton University,  Tara Fernandez of Penn and Rose Aka of St. John's University wander through one of the Arboretum's many sculpture-garden areas. Behind them are 1981 painted aluminum sculptures by George Sugarman. (See companion story: Penn SUMR Scholars Confront Giant Bugs)

    • The Fernery
    • The Fernery
    • A historical as well as botanical site, the Arboretum's Hamilton Fernery dates to 1899 and is the only remaining freestanding Victorian fernery in North America. Inside, SUMR scholars encountered jungle-levels of humidity and a wide variety of ferns lushly laced across reflecting pools, waterfalls and a picturesque walkway.

    • Giant Bullfrog
    • Giant Bullfrog
    • SUMR scholar Pearl Eni of the University of Pittsburgh seeks her prince at artist Lorraine Vail's 1981 sculpture of a giant bullfrog. The work honors the aquatic bullfrogs that can be found throughout the Arboretum's various waterways and water features.

    • Out on a Limb
    • Out on a Limb
    • Resting in nets high in the trees in the Arboretum's "Out on a Limb" feature are Alexis Van Eyken of Penn,  Safa Browne, LDI Research Coordinator, and Shanae Johnson, SUMR Program Coordinator.

    • Downtime in the Treetops
    • Downtime in the Treetops
    • Enjoying some down time in the nets are , first row, Alexis Van Eyken, Penn; Safa Browne, LDI Research Coordinator; Shanae Johnson, SUMR Program Coordinator; Aris Mourelatos, high school intern; Aaron Landrum, Penn; Tara Fernandez, Penn; Doris Arevalo, University of Illinois; Julio Albarracin, Penn; Nadia Ogene, Penn; Rose Aka, St. John's University; Joanne Levy, Director, SUMR Program; Second row: Pearl Eni, University of Pittsburgh; Randall Burson, Swarthmore; Neel Koyawala, Penn; Karlos Bledsoe, Princeton; Maximilian Pany, Swarthmore; and Jasmeet Samra, Swarthmore.

    • Nothing but Net
    • Nothing but Net
    • The nets are one of the "Out of a Limb's" most popular features. Visitors are invited to climb in.

    • Aerial Walkways
    • Aerial Walkways
    • The "Out on a Limb" sites are connected by 50-foot-high aerial walkways that traverse a densly-wooded nature area.

    • Fun in the Canope
    • Fun in the Canope
    • "Out on a Limb" is a unique forest canope site that was designed by Metcalfe Architecture & Design and is designed to be as educational as it is fun to go through.

    • Giant Robin's Eggs
    • Giant Robin's Eggs
    • Doris Arevalo checks out the giant bird's nest complete with giant robin's eggs that serve as impromptu chairs.

    • Nesters
    • Nesters
    • In the nest and trying out the eggs for size are Randall Burson, Neel Koyawala, Karlos Bledsoe, Doris Arevalo and Tara Fernandez.

    • Victorian Eclectic
    • Victorian Eclectic
    • Originally the site of the palatial home of Morris family heirs to a 19th-century iron works fortune, the grounds of the Arboretum include a number of formal garden areas. This one is modeled on the eclectic style fashionable in the late Victorian era.

    • Strolling the Gardens
    • Strolling the Gardens
    • Strolling the garden are Nadia Ogene, Aaron Landrum and Randall Burson.

    • Custom Designed Forests
    • Custom Designed Forests
    • In the late 19th century, wealthy estate owners often vied to outdo each other in landscape art by importing entire forests from other continents. The Morris family was partial to woodlands from Japan and China; the latter being the source of this stand of redwoods. 

    • Exotic Tree Bark
    • Exotic Tree Bark
    • One area of the Arboretum is devoted to exotic trees that have visually interesting barks, like this Lacebark species from Japan.

    • Up a Tree
    • Up a Tree
    • The SUMR crew scurries up a low-limbed giant of a tree that was just asking to be climbed.

    • Ever Upward
    • Ever Upward
    •  SUMR scholar Rose Aka made it to the highest perch.

    • Branching out
    • Branching out
    •  Pearl Eni was also a high climber.

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