Prize-winning ecology images unveiled

Kyle Karrington / BMC Ecology Image Competition

A Namaqua Rock Mouse snacks on a Pagoda Lily
Petra Wester/BMC Ecology Image Competition (Overall winner)

Online open access research publisher BioMed Central has announced the winners of the BMC Ecology Image Competition, aimed at capturing the beauty of ecological interactions and reflect scientists’ affinity with their subjects.

The winning image, above, catches a Namaqua Rock Mouse feeding on Pagoda Lily pollen.

A black-browed albatross feeds its chick, nesting in dense colonies on the Falkland Islands.
Laetizia Campioni/BMC Ecology Image Competition

Researcher Petra Wester spent many nights on the South African Sevilla rock art trail to study the mouse, and captured the first evidence of the mice pollinating the lily.

The runner up was a touching picture of an albatross feeding her chick. Scientist Laetizia Campioni said: “Albatross parents take great care of their only chick, in which they invest energy and time for six months a year. This picture really touched me and I am really happy now that it has won a prize. It means that the message of this picture is touching for other people, too.”

The BMC Ecology Image Competition was open to everyone affiliated with a research institution, and considered all images that depicted a specific ecological interaction, from photos to data visualizations. The winners were chosen by the journal’s section editors and guest judge, writer and journalist Caspar Henderson, author of Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary.

In addition to the winner and runner up, the judges chose five section winners reflecting the editorial sections of the journal, and one editors’ pick. The highly commended images reflect the high standard of entries in the competition – it was so hard to choose just eight, the judges wanted to recognize another 22 outstanding images.

The winner of the Behavior category, Bernardo Segura, whose image shows a parasitoid fly attacking an ant said: “I feel that there is so much beauty in nature and most people just don’t pay attention to it. You don’t have to be in a tropical rainforest to see stunning animals and interaction between them, you just have to pay attention even in the garden of your own home.”

The winner of the landscape category for his image of Death valley, Benjamin Blonder, said: “This photograph captured some of my love for these sparse landscapes. They appear empty, but they are not. Rather, their resource dependence makes us aware of our own tenuous hold on life. Thousands of years ago this would have been a wet area, but it is almost devoid of vegetation, broken up only by a volcanic rock outcrop and the occasional bit of snowmelt water. In a desert like this one feels both alone and alive.”

Editors Pick: Left alone for months while their parents are gone fishing hundreds of miles away, emperor penguin chicks have to struggle against the cold. To survive, the penguins huddle together in huge crèches of several thousand chicks.
Laetitia Kernaleguen/BMC Ecology Image Competition

In an editorial in BMC Ecology, the judges explain their decisions, saying: “The best work often shows that new phenomena - sometimes startling, sometimes beautiful and sometimes both - are always there to be found with the keenest eye, the sharpest act of attention. At a time of exceptionally rapid change to the non-human systems upon which all life depends, such work was never more important, and shows that while we may have great cause for concern, there is also no end to marvels.”

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