James Wetzel, PhD, FBCA


James T. Wetzel, Ph.D., is the Pulaski L. Bealy Smith Professor of Biology at Presbyterian College, Clinton, South Carolina, US where he has been on staff in the biology department since 1990. Jim is a regular BCA conference presenter and has been the BCA JBC editor since 2017.

Jim has an impressive history of promoting and using scientific photography in all aspects of his teaching. At BCA meetings Jim is always open to freely sharing his knowledge and expertise with other participants. Because of his diversity of interests, he manages to combine both imaging and biology to create a mutual synergy that enables him to be an educator with extremely broad expertise.

Jim’s interest in photography stems from two main areas: 1) the underwater world, and 2) the super small side of nature. He started his career in biology as a research diver for the University of California marine lab in the early 80’s, and from that time underwater photography has been a passion. Through his academic appointment he has had the great fortune to dive many of the world’s oceans, each time returning with a treasure of images to share.

His research area of Developmental Biology relies heavily on microscopy as a tool. From that, his interest in photomicrography and in particular, scanning electron microscopy, blossomed. A few of his images of this ‘invisible’ world have taken such awards as the Polaroid Corporation International Scientific Photo Competition (1st place – scanning microscopy) and the EIPBN (Electron, Ion and Photo Beam Technology and Nanofabrication) Micrograph Contest (grand Prize) ‘Seahorse Birthing’.

While conducting a web search for microscopic images, Jim discovered the BCA and BIOCOMM. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t heard of BCA earlier. The intent and makeup of the organization was just what he was looking for so in 2009 Jim joined BCA and attended his first BIOCOMM meeting. From that moment Jim has been an active participant.

Jim’s most recent BCA presentations include:

  • “Photomacrography – Theory and Practice” – a workshop given with Danielle Edwards, Gale Spring and Gabriel Unda at BIOCOMM 2019, at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California.
  • “Modeling Sharkskin: A Microscopic Study in Bio-mimicry” as well as a workshop: “Hands-on Photomicrography”– both presented at BIOCOMM 2018 in Savannah, Georgia.
  • “Correlative Microscopy: A Renewed Interest in Old Techniques” presented at BIOCOMM 2017 in Portland, Oregon.
  • Additional workshops: “IVF photomicrography workshop on the sea urchin (Part1 and 2)”, given in New Orleans, Louisiana at BIOCOMM 2016.
  • And “Environmental Photography: An Interdisciplinary Approach” presented at BIOCOMM 2015 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Some of Jim’s research has been on paternal-fetal relationships during seahorse development photographically, this has benefited from both the histology levels (light microscopy) and ultrastructure levels (electron microscopy) of visual data. In particular, the use of more contemporary histo-chemical staining in light microscopy has provided more detailed information on tissue differentiation throughout the development of organs. Using correlative microscopy and modern multi-staining has enabled a better understanding the role of the paternal broodpouch in this interesting group of fishes.

Jim has received multiple honours and recognition, including:

  • EIPBN Micrograph contest - Grand Prize, Polaroid Corporation Scanning Electron
  • Microscopy competition - 1st prize
  • Olympus Bioscapes Honorable Mention,
  • BioCommunications Association – Canadian Founders Natural Science Award, BIOCOMM,
  • BCA Award of Excellence, Still Media - Natural Science
  • “Biologist At Large,” Appalachian Region EM Society (1995)
  • “Visiting Scholar” at Belle Baruch Institute, SC (Summer 2001)

A sample of Biological presentations Jim Wetzel has made to the scientific community:

  • “Evolution and function of the seahorse brood pouch.” South Carolina Marine Education Association (1996)
  • “The evolution of the paternal brood sac in Syngnathid fishes.” Winthrop University (1993)
  • “Paternal-embryonic relations “Species diversity in the eastern and western pacific.” Bodega Marine Laboratory (1986);
  • Tokai University, Kumamoto, Japan (1987); Amucksa Aquarium, Amucksa, Japan (1987)

A sample of academic research publications he has produced in the field of Biology.

  • Wetzel, J., Wourms, J.P., and Friel, J. Comparative morphology of cotylephores in Platystacus and Solenostomus; modifications of the integument for egg attachment in skinbrooding fishes. Envir. Biol. Fish. 50(1). (1996)
  • Wetzel, J. and Wourms, J.P. Adaptations for reproduction and development in the skinbrooding ghost pipefishes, Solenostomus. Envir. Biol. Fish. 44:363-384. (1995)
  • Bartsch, J., Ergle, S., Kokkala, I., and Wetzel, J. Development of the lateral line in embryos of the the dwarf seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae. ASB Bull. 41 (2):82. (1994)
  • Wourms, J. and Wetzel, J. Evolutionary morphology of cotylephores: egg attachment sites in skin-brooding fishes. Amer. Zool. 32 (5): 160A. (1992)
  • Wetzel, J., Wourms, J.P., and Poss, S.G. Cotylephores of the ghost pipefish: sites of egg attachment and maternal- embryonic exchange. Amer. Zool. 32 (5): 154A. (1992) Wetzel,
  • J. and Wourms, J.P. Paternal-embryonic relationships in seahorses and pipefishes (Syngnathidae). Amer. Zool. 31:83A. (1991)

Jim is also a member of numerous societies including:

  • BioCommunications Association
  • Electron Microscopy Society of America
  • American Society of Ichthyologists & Herpetologists
  • Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology
  • South Carolina Academy of Sciences