May Cover Artist: Frank Stewart

Wednesday May. 1st, 2024

Frank Stewart is a professor of microbiology at Montana State. He is also one of the only marine biologists in Montana. When not teaching, he leads a research team exploring microscopic life in the oceans. His job has taken him from Antarctica to the Aleutian Islands. His team, which includes MSU students, has active projects in French Polynesia, Mexico, and Costa Rica, as well as on Montana rivers.

Frank’s father worked for a mining company in northern Nevada, where Frank was raised. His dad’s job was to find gold and copper deposits, which meant traveling months at a time in the remote West. His dad always carried a camera on his trips. Frank grew up with coffee table books of Ansel Adams and his dad’s slideshows of Prescott, Ely, Anaconda...

Somewhere in his dad’s slide boxes are pictures of a first trip to Montana. It was in the ‘80s, and the family was visiting an uncle in Gardiner. Frank remembers it rained heavily, things got muddy, and he pulled a cutthroat from the Yellowstone.

Many years later, Frank returned to the area with his college sweetheart and a job offer from Montana State. “The job was a no-brainer,” he says. Montana State is world-renowned for aquatic microbiology, due partly to a legacy of studying microbes in Yellowstone hot springs.

The area itself was the bigger draw. Of his home in the farmland west of Bozeman, Frank says, “On many days, I can turn my head and see winter one way and spring the other. I can usually find a bald eagle in minutes. And in the rural parts, everyone waves when I pass.”

By his own admission, Frank winces when asked something technical about photography. “I really don’t know much about how cameras actually work. I enjoy the challenge of framing a scene, but I’m very much an amateur. My dad just taught me to always carry my camera. Plus, I’m lucky enough to live where I live.”

Frank and his wife live in Manhattan, Montana with their beloved cat. In the summer months, they’re joined by a band of foster donkeys. He posts pictures daily on Montana-themed Facebook Groups (The 406!) and his public Facebook page (On the Land).