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Cold Spring Harbor Library

Feeding Frenzy, ink, bamboo brush and pastel on canvas, by Diane Lundegaard
Diane Lundegaard reflects on life through art in latest exhibit

By Melissa Arnold

When Diane Lundegaard set off for college in the 1960s, she took business classes, dreamed of going to France and hoped to build a stable career. Those dreams would ultimately come true, but not in the way she expected. 

Diane Lundegaard

As Lundegaard marks her 70th birthday, the lifelong artist is looking back on her journey from student to teacher, environmental activist to educator at the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery & Aquarium. To celebrate, she’s put together a stunning exhibit from nearly every chapter of her life so far, on display at the Cold Spring Harbor Library now through Sept. 11.

“I had an interest in drawing from the time I was very young. It seemed like a reprieve, and a beautiful thing to enter into,” said the Dix Hills resident. “My mother loved to paint, and with eight children at home, she only truly relaxed when she was painting. That inspired me.”

As a teen, Lundegaard would wander around her Deer Park neighborhood and the surrounding areas with a sketchbook, drawing houses and horses with a ballpoint pen, and the marshes of Babylon in charcoal. She went on to pursue a business degree at Staten Island College, and in 1967 she had the opportunity of a lifetime: a school trip to Paris.

“I didn’t have the money to travel all of France with my friends, so instead I stayed in Paris for the entire trip,” Lundegaard said. “I spent a lot of the time sketching the cathedrals and statues I could see from the room where I was staying.”

It was also in Paris where she had a chance meeting with a young man from Denmark named Hans who would capture her heart. The pair exchanged letters for several years before marrying in Copenhagen when Lundegaard was just 20. 

‘Near the Tidal Raceway’

Later, Lundegaard studied art history, education and social studies at Stony Brook University, where she received both a bachelor’s of fine arts and a master’s degree. She launched a successful writing career covering art as a freelancer in publications including Sunstorm Art Magazine, Newsday and the New York Times, ultimately becoming an art teacher at the East Woods School in Oyster Bay.

Along the way, the educator studied under the new realist painter Bill Beckman and later had the opportunity to study Asian techniques with May Wong Moy, a distinguished brush painter. 

Outside of the classroom, she continued to draw and paint but admitted she struggled to find her own personal style of artistic expression. 

In 2005, a sudden layoff forced Lundegaard to search for a new career. She found renewed fulfillment in pursuing her other great passion: helping the environment. 

Lundegaard first developed an interest in environmental activism when, as a young mother, she grew concerned with plans to build a massive, multitown resource recovery plant adjacent to the former Pilgrim State Hospital. She later became involved with local civic and environmental efforts, including a federal water study. 

In 1982, she received the Coastal Barrier Resources Act Commendation from the National Wildlife Federation.  

Her commitment to the environment and love of teaching made for a natural fit at the hatchery, where she started working as an educational assistant in 2005.

The artist with artwork from the exhibit

The hatchery would also provide Lundegaard with the artistic inspiration and unique voice she’d always longed for.

“Working at the hatchery, I got to study pond life up close on a daily basis, and learned to draw and paint what I was seeing,” she said. “I feel that undersea art hasn’t been tapped into fully in the fine art world simply because people don’t often get to see what’s under there, if at all. But the hatchery allows me to visualize aquatic habitats and creatures from a perspective that most people don’t have regularly.”

The Asian technique of painting with a bamboo brush on rice paper works especially well for underwater scenes, the artist said. Her experience with the perils affecting the local environment made painting aquatic life deeply personal and meaningful.

“One of my goals for creating art is to share a concern for protecting aquatic environments. Painting expresses the beauty of nature so well,” she said. “I also hope to touch people’s hearts and make them want to become proactive in helping the environment, even if it’s in small ways. It’s a terrible thing to see people and animals that are suffering because of harm to the environment, and beauty is a wonderful way to open people’s eyes.”

Titled Looking Back, Looking Ahead, A Retrospective of Paintings, the exhibit will feature 39 pieces of Lundegaard’s artwork, from childhood scribbles to the cathedrals in Paris and contemporary work from the hatchery.

The Cold Spring Harbor Library has hosted Lundegaard’s work in previous solo and group exhibits, and it is glad to welcome her back, said adult program director Kathy Olsen.

“We like to promote environmental awareness here at the library, so Diane’s exhibit fits well with that goal,” Olsen said. “I took my children to the hatchery many times when they were small. It’s a very interesting place, and we’re pleased that Diane is calling attention to their work. From simple line drawings to colorful, impressionistic paintings, there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy.”

A portion of the sales from Lundegaard’s exhibit will benefit the hatchery’s new Turtle Pond area, said hatchery director Steve DeSimone.

“Diane has been such an asset to us here at the hatchery. We are excited to celebrate her and her artwork,” DeSimone said. “ It has been a pleasure to watch how the fish hatchery and aquarium environments have taken on new interpretations through Diane’s beautiful work.”  

See Diane Lundegaard’s retrospective exhibit now through Sept. 11 at the Cold Spring Harbor Library, 95 Harbor Road, Cold Spring Harbor. For hours and information, call 631- 692-6820, ext. 202 or visit www.cshlibrary.org. View more of Lundegaard’s artwork at www.lakeartstudiopaintings.com. For information about the hatchery, visit www.cshfishhatchery.org. 

All photos courtesy of Diane Lundegaard

Alexa’s photograph of a juvenile osprey taken at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park

Alexa Helburn, a junior at Huntington High School, will have her photography on exhibit at Cold Spring Harbor Library, 95 Harbor Road, Cold Spring Harbor, on Wednesday, Nov. 14 from 6 to 7:15 pm. 

Alexa’s photography, featuring the beauty of fall and wildlife in and around the Long Island Sound, will be available to take home and enjoy as a token of appreciation for donations to Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society’s program of helping to support Maya girls in Guatemala continue their education where they learn about sustainable farming, leadership and, of course, conservation. 

The 16-year-old uses her love of photography to explore her surroundings and to bring an appreciation for the beauty of nature to others. “I’m very glad to hold this photography fundraiser to help the Maya girls get a good education and learn how to live a healthy lifestyle. That is very important to me and I believe it will benefit the girls and their whole community,” said Alexa. For more information, call 631-692-6820.

Above, Mikala Egeblad works with graduate student Emilis Bružas in the Watson School of Biological Sciences. Photo from Pershing Square Soon Cancer Research Alliance

By Daniel Dunaief

For some people, cancer goes into remission and remains inactive. For others, the cancer that’s in remission returns. While doctors can look for risk factors or genetic mutations, they don’t know why a cancer may come back at the individual level.

In a mouse model of breast and prostate cancers, Mikala Egeblad, an associate professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, has found an important driver of cancer activation and metastasis: inflammation. When mice with cancer also have inflammation, their cancer is likely to become more active. Those who don’t have inflammation, or whose inflammation is treated quickly, can keep the dreaded disease in check. Cancer cells “may be dormant or hibernating and not doing any harm at all,” she said. “We speculated what might be driving them from harmless to overt metastasis.”

Egeblad cautioned that this research, which was recently published in the journal Science, is on mice and that humans may have different processes and mechanisms.

CSHL’s Mikala Egeblad. Photo from Pershing Square Soon Cancer Research Alliance

“It is critical to verify whether the process happens in humans,” Egeblad suggested in an email, which she will address in her ongoing research. Still, the results offer a window into the way cancer can become active and then spread from the lungs. She believes this is because the lungs are exposed to so many external stimuli. She is also looking into the relevance for bone, liver and brain metastases. The results of this research have made waves in the scientific community.

“This study is fantastic,” declared Zena Werb, a professor of anatomy and associate director for basic science at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California in San Francisco. “When [Egeblad] first presented it at a meeting six months ago, the audience was agog. It was clearly the best presentation of the meeting!”

Werb, who oversaw Egeblad’s research when Egeblad was a postdoctoral scientist, suggested in an email that this is the first significant mechanism that could explain how cancer cells awaken and will “change the way the field thinks.”

Egeblad credits a team of researchers in her lab for contributing to this effort, including first author Jean Albrengues, who is a postdoctoral fellow. This group showed that there’s a tipping point for mice — mice with inflammation that lasts six days develop metastasis.

Egeblad has been studying a part of the immune system called neutrophil extracellular traps, which trap and kill bacteria and yeast. Egeblad and other researchers have shown that some cancers trick these NETs to aid the cancer in metastasizing.

In the new study, inflammation causes cancer cells that are not aggressive to develop NETs, which leads to metastasis. The traps and enzymes on it “change the scaffold that signals that cancer should divide and proliferate instead of sitting there dormant,” Egeblad said.

To test out her theory about the role of enzymes and the NETs, Egeblad blocked the cascade in six different ways, including obstructing the altered tissue scaffold with antibodies. When mice have the antibody, their ability to activate cancer cells after inflammation is prevented or greatly reduced, she explained.

The numbers from her lab are striking: in 100 mice with inflammation, 94 developed metastatic cancer. When she treated these mice with any of the approaches to block the inflammation pathway, 60 percent of them survived, while the remaining 40 percent had a reduced metastatic cancer burden in the lungs.

If inflammation is a key part of determining the cancer prognosis, it would help cancer patients to know, and potentially treat, inflammation even when they don’t show any clinical signs of such a reaction.

In mice, these NETs spill into the blood. Egeblad is testing whether these altered NETs are also detectable in humans. She could envision this becoming a critical marker for inflammation to track in cancer survivors.

The epidemiological data for humans is not as clear cut as the mouse results in Egeblad’s lab. Some of these epidemiological studies, however, may not have identified the correct factor.

Egeblad thinks she needs to look specifically at NETs and not inflammation in general to find out if these altered structures play a role for humans. “We would like to measure levels of NETs and other inflammatory markers in the blood over time and determine if there is a correlation between high levels and risk of recurrence,” she explained, adding that she is starting a study with the University of Kansas.

Werb suggested that inflammation can be pro-tumor or anti-tumor, possibly in the same individual, which could make the net effect difficult to determine.

“By pulling the different mechanisms apart, highly significant effects may be there,” Werb wrote in an email. Other factors including mutation and chromosomal instability and other aspects of the microenvironment interact with inflammation in a “vicious cycle.”

In humans, inflammation may be a part of the cancer dynamic, which may involve other molecular signals or pathways, Egeblad said.

She has been discussing a collaboration with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Doug Fearon, whose lab is close to hers.

Fearon has been exploring how T-cells could keep metastasis under control. Combining their approaches, she said, cancer might need a go signal, which could come from inflammation, while it also might need the ability to alter the ability of T-cells from stopping metastasis.

In her ongoing efforts to understand the process of metastasis, Egeblad is also looking at creating an antibody that works in humans and plans to continue to build on these results. “We now have a model for how inflammation might cause cancer recurrence,” she said. 

“We are working very actively on multiple different avenues to understand the human implications, and how best to target NETs to prevent cancer metastasis.”

Alexa Helburn, right, with Simone DaRos, the vice president of the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society, at the nature photography fundraiser on June 13. Photo from Ronald Feuchs

By Sabrina Petroski

Alexa Helburn’s interest in photography started at the age of 13, with an iPhone camera and a dream. Now 15, the Huntington High School honor student held her first photography fundraiser, Nature Through the Lens, at the Cold Spring Harbor Library on June 13 in hopes of educating people on how to conserve the environment, as well as how to appreciate the beauty around them.

The event was for the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society, a chapter of the National Audubon Society whose mission is to protect birds and other wildlife, and the habitats upon which they depend through education, public advocacy and conservation action.

Of the 24 photographs on display, 17 of them found homes with members of the community, raising $195. The money will be used to fund a Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society (HOBAS) backed fishing line receptacle project by James Ricci, a seventh-grader at Greenlawn’s Oldfield Middle School, which helps prevent wildlife on North Shore’s waterways from getting caught in unused fishing line. 

‘Amber Breeze’

Reached by email the day after the event, Alexa, who took all the exhibit’s photos using her newest toy, a Canon EOS T6 digital SLR, was still taking it all in. “I worked really hard and felt both nervous and excited — nervous about people’s reactions and questions, and excited to showcase my work to the public.” Alexa said she still uses her iPhone 8 sometimes, whether it be to capture a moment that would otherwise be missed or to preview shots before using her Canon.

Relocating from South Salem in Northern Westchester a year ago, Alexa used her love of photography to explore her new home in Huntington and found that taking pictures of her surroundings made her more comfortable in her new community, as well as made her appreciate her surroundings more. 

“Moving was tough, but I guess you could say that having a hobby, like photography, made the transition a little bit easier,” she said. “Photography allows me to capture what’s going on in my life and share that with my friends and family. Photography is also a creative outlet for me, whether it’s snapping a photo of that perfect sunset or capturing a fleeting moment at the exact right time — the feeling of getting it right makes it all worthwhile.” 

Camelot Lavender Foxgloves

Alexa says that she has always been interested in environmental conservation, and when she found HOBAS she discovered she could use her two passions to benefit her new community while giving herself exposure and a chance to connect with the community. 

The photos at the exhibition included pictures taken on recent HOBAS field trips as well as images from nature preserves in the Huntington-Oyster Bay area. The selection included the aptly named “Spiral of Branches,” captured at the John Hume Japanese Garden in Mill Neck; “Amber Breeze,” taken at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve in Lloyd Harbor depicting common reed grass blowing in the wind forming a natural fence in front of the marshes beyond; along with the beautiful image of “Camelot Lavender Foxgloves” snapped at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay.

When asked what advice she would give to people her age interested in pursuing photography, Alexa said it is important that they know that they don’t need a professional camera to take good photos. “Newer smartphones have great built-in cameras, and that’s a good place to start,” she advised. The photographer also recommends focusing less on the technical aspects and more on the compositional aspects instead. 

‘Spiral of Branches’

“This was her first time exhibiting her photography publicly, and it’s great to see someone so young using their talent to not only benefit themselves, but also the community,” said Ronald Feuchs, the founder of Stand Out for College, LLC, a college counseling and mentoring service that focuses on helping students create significant service projects that benefit the community as well as fostering the student’s personal growth and confidence in the process. 

Feuchs has been working with Alexa to develop this community project that showcases her talents and gives back to her new community. 

“Alexa is a self-taught photographer, and her eye is incredible,” said Jackie Tepper, Feuchs’ assistant. “Her use of light and color is so sophisticated.”

Alexa’s family has been so supportive of her recent escapades and hopes she continues to pursue her passion. “I’m so proud of what Alexa is doing with her photography project with HOBAS. She’s using her tremendous talent to benefit a very important organization in our new hometown and she’s pushing herself beyond her comfort zone by exhibiting her work to the public,” said Alexa’s father Jim. “It’s a big deal for anyone, let alone a 15-year-old, to put their artistic talent on display. And, even though I know firsthand that a high school student has taken these photos, I am still amazed by how sophisticated her eye is.”

For Alexa, the opportunity to hold a photography fundraiser was a no-brainer. “I thought this would be a great way to make a difference and take responsibility to help care for our environment.” 

More of Alexa’s photos will be posted on the HOBAS website shortly to continue raising money for the society. For more information, visit www.hobaudubon.org.

Leif Cocks with an orangutan
Plans visit to Sachem and Cold Spring Harbor libraries

The Nature Conservancy is co-sponsoring an event along with The Orangutan Project to help educate citizens and raise awareness of the plight of threatened orangutans at two public events this month — Sachem Public Library in Holbrook on Monday, Jan. 22, and Cold Spring Harbor Library on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Both events will be held at 7 p.m.

The program will be presented by Leif Cocks, founder and president of the international charity, The Orangutan Project, who has worked for more than three decades to save humanity’s “orange cousins” from extinction. Cocks will share the fascinating inside story of his personal journey with these creatures who captivated his heart and mind and ultimately formed his life’s work, a recently published book titled “Orangutans, My Cousins, My Friends.”

Part personal history, part philosophical discussion, part scientific case for conservation, and a call to action for all who wish to help save the orangutan, this talk will inspire, inform and touch hearts.

“Orangutans share 97 percent of our DNA — they are one of our closest living relatives,” explained Nancy Kelley, director of The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “More than 85 percent of the world’s orangutans live in Borneo (in Indonesia and Malaysia) where they require large tracts of healthy forest for survival. Unfortunately, industrial timber, mining and the rapidly growing oil palm industry are destroying the orangutan’s forest faster than anywhere else on earth, and the orangutan’s very existence is at risk. Among other efforts, The Nature Conservancy has a dedicated team of forest guardians and is hard at work to protect the orangutan and its forest forever,” she said.

Adult orangutans are frequently killed as the forest is cleared and any infants that survive usually end up in captivity as illegal pets. Although Bornean orangutans are currently listed as Critically Endangered with approximately 55,000 remaining, it is estimated more than 5,000 are killed each year.

“Starting with my time at a zoo, I found myself so intrigued by the primates, I would spend my lunchtimes in the orangutan enclosures, eating my lunch with them. I felt no fear when I was with them, just a calm sense of awe and appreciation. Over the years, I was no longer able to see the orangutans, or any of the great apes, as being other or different to me and had come to the conclusion that they were not only sentient beings but persons in the true sense of the word,” said Cocks. “My recently published book is infused with inspiring and at times challenging stories of the many orangutans I’ve worked with over the years.”

In his book, the author recounts powerful stories including getting a giant diabetic alpha male to willingly allow him to undertake daily blood tests and insulin injections; sleeping with an injured orangutan to nurse her back to full health; witnessing births of newborn orangutans and the privilege of holding them just days after birth; to the orangutan with an uncanny obsession with fellow redhead, Nicole Kidman.

Cocks will discuss his memoir of his experiences in Borneo working with this critically endangered species and hopes to inspire, inform and touch hearts, whether one is an animal lover, environmentalist or simply looking to be enlightened and maybe even change the way one sees and acts in the world. A book signing will follow. This program is free and open to all but registration is requested by calling 631-588-5024 (Sachem) or 631-692-6820 (CSH).