An art exhibit now on display at the Apalachicola Estuarine Research Reserve showcases the interests and expressions of environmental microbiologist Robert Simmons of Georgia State University.

“Art from the Sea, Works by Robert Simmons” combines photographs taken using light and electron microscopes with constructed art to illustrate both the beauty of the natural world and man’s impact on the estuarine environment.

Simmons vocation is science but his passion for his work is intricately tied to an appreciation of natural beauty and his profession as a microscopist had made him privy to a world most of us never dream exists.

The images affect different viewers differently. On viewing a huge magnification of the face of a lobster displayed at the center of the presentation, local artist Kristen Anderson shuddered and remarked, “It’s like a nightmare.”

Simmons’ art is an effort to make people aware of the unseen beauty around us but also to educate on the damage humanity does to the environment.

In addition to his photography, the exhibition at ANERR includes a second body of Simmons’ work - images created from litter collected on the shore. These images, amusing, startling and sometimes quite lovely, bring into focus the burden of discarded refuse heaped on the planet by mankind.

“I have a very strong attachment to the sea and understand the vital importance of coastal waters,” Simmons said. “I believe that the smallest things, both material and biological, can have tremendous effects on the wider world.

“One very important aspect of plastics in the environment is that they tend to break into small pieces, becoming invisible in the naked eye, rather than degrade,” he said. “I use images of plastics recovered from our beaches and waterways as a means of drawing the attention of non-scientists to the hazards of plastics pollution in the hope they will begin to reduce their use of these materials.”

Simmons also works in glass and enamels.