Autumn Autopsy

Living in the Mid-Atlantic means living through 4 distinct seasons, every single year. 4 different lives, 4 different climates, and 4 different times, complete with their own characteristics and narratives that shape every year as they pass.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the anthropocene, and what life looks like because of human intervention; what influence we have in intricate species interactions and domino-effect changes in the environment. However, every year, like clockwork, fall comes around and the world around us changes so much in the same way. For just a snippet of time, it feels like the world is moving and changing and evolving—- and it isn’t our fault.

This photo depicts one of the very last green leaves outside of the student center on campus.

Every season has its own markers, and autumn is no different. Characterized by the changing leaves, the layered aesthetic, and pumpkin spice, I was feeling particularly entranced by the beauty of our campus as autumn was falling upon us.

This Foldscope endeavor was the perfect opportunity to get a closer look at the leaves as they changed through various stages before ultimately dying— an autumnal autopsy.

This photo depicts a dark red/orange leaf under The Foldscope lens, also found outside of the student center. Up close, the leaf appears much brighter in coloration than it was in its entirety.

I was curious as to the forces driving coloration, and the different hues I saw all around campus, and particularly all around Frist. I also have always had a fascination with leaves, and autumn certainly always piques that curiosity. Looking at a green “live” leaf up close compared to a morphing deep red one was extremely gratifying, making note of the fragmentation and partitioning pattern of the leaves beyond the cell scope. There is also a crystal-like, marbling to the green leaf compared to the more autumnal morph, and they reflect light very differently.

Using The Foldscope, I was able to get a closer look at something that the world and environment does, without fail. It was like having an insider scoop on the ecosystem “irrespective” of anthropogenic influence, and it was refreshing.

“I conducted this project as part of Professor Pringle’s EEB321 class at Princeton University. ”

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