Dr. Karl Foord ’68 Returns to Campus to Share Passion for Science Photography

On October 28, Dr. Karl Foord ’68 visited with Upper School students to share how he uses photography as a tool in his scientific research of insects, particularly bees. Dr. Foord, an Extension Educator and Professor of Horticulture at the University of Minnesota, presented samples of his work to Art Teacher Michael Webster’s photography students and to the entire ninth grade class, as their science curriculum covers botany and ecology.

Through his work of mixing scientific research and aesthetics, Dr. Foord said that his mission is “to capture images to inspire people to develop an interest in the ecology happening in their own backyard and take action, specifically in the plight of pollinators.”

In the photography class, Dr. Foord said that his approach changes, depending upon the image he is trying to photograph, whether it be producing a garden calendar, diagnosing a garden problem, identifying an insect, or (“I get a kick out of this”) analyzing insect behaviors. In his field Dr. Foord specializes in high-speed photography, generally shooting at least 1000-5000 frames per second, to be able to capture the minute movements of insects whose wings may beat 250 times per second. He also utilizes quadcopters, or a flying camera drone, to conduct aerial analyses.

After showing some of his impressive close-up footage of monarch butterflies flying, bees pollinating flowers, and more, the students were amazed that Dr. Foord was able to film the images. When asked how he did it, he answered: “Knowing the insects’ behaviors helps me immensely with the photographic challenge. The clarity of the shots come from when I see the subject, I put a stick in the ground, focus my camera on the stick, and wait until I see them again in that area. It’s tough though because if you get five great pictures out of 200, that’s lucky.”

During his presentation to ninth graders, focusing on the native bees, Dr. Foord discussed the place of bees in the ecosystem, nesting sites, the bee’s life cycle, and mating behavior. As he explored the different aspects of native bees, Dr. Foord again shared more footage from his collection, displaying the interaction of the bees in nature.

Apart from his class lectures with students, Dr. Foord also visited with Head of School Larry Van Meter, his long-time friend and fellow member of the MFS Class of 1968.