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Capturing Ecology – Winning images of British Ecological Society photography competition announced

An image of a Malagasy tree boa perched in a tree, taken by Roberto García Roa, has been awarded Overall Winner in the British Ecological Society’s annual photography competition, ‘Capturing Ecology’.

The winning images and an additional 15 highly commended images, taken by international ecologists and students, celebrate the diversity of ecology; capturing flora and fauna from across the planet. Subjects range from the hypnotic textures of a birch forest, to a three-toed sloth making its way across a road, to a Southern white rhinoceros receiving its annual horn trimming to help protect it from poachers.

On his winning image, Roberto, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Valencia, said: “Unfortunately, many areas of Madagascar are suffering huge anthropic pressures including poaching and fires, and big snakes are becoming increasingly difficult to see. During my visit to Madagascar, I had the pleasure of finding this outstanding snake and photographing it. To offer a dramatic scenario reflecting the conditions that these snakes are suffering, I used an external red light as a source of light and severe blurring to capture the environment.”

Professor Richard Bardgett, President of the BES, commented: “This stunning image not only captures the beauty of the Malagasy tree boa, which is endemic to the island of Madagascar, but also its vulnerability, especially to hunting and fire. A remarkable image and deserving winner.”

Roberto also won the ‘Up Close and Personal’ category with an image of a fluorescent scorpion glowing under UV light and the ‘Dynamic Ecosystems’ category with an image of a spider capturing a comparatively huge ant.

The overall student winner is Nilanjan Chatterjee who is studying for a PhD at the Wildlife Institute of India. Nilanjan’s image ‘Flames in flumes’ captures a male plumbeous water-redstart on the hunt for insect prey emerging from the water.

River-birds are one of the most specialist group of birds that depends on rivers for their life-history. Numerous dams coming on the high river reaches threaten the flow. Credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee.

“The standard of the competition is remarkable, with many outstanding photographs being submitted in 2019. Entries this year portrayed the incredible visual diversity of ecology, with images capturing the vibrancy and intimate detail of their subjects. I congratulate all winners and thank all the participants for their submissions”, concluded Richard Bardgett.

The winning images will be exhibited at the Society’s annual conference in Belfast next month, which will bring together 1,200 ecologists from more than 40 countries to discuss the latest research. They will also be displayed at a free exhibition in Ulster Museum which opens daily (Tues-Sun) from 11 February 2020.

The independent judging panel included six eminent ecologists and award-winning wildlife photographers.

Full list of winners:

Overall winner: Roberto García Roa, University of Valencia, Red night, A Malagasy tree boa perches in a tree.

Overall runner-up: Mikhail Kapychka, MSU Kuleshova, Autumn texture, A birch forest in autumn.

Overall student winner: Nilanjan Chatterjee, Wildlife Institute of India, Flames in flumes, A plumbeous water redstart waits by the cascades to catch a mayfly or stonefly for a meal.

Category 1 – Up Close and Personal
An image displaying the intricacy of nature using close-up or macro photography.

Winner: Roberto García Roa, University of Valencia, Fluorescence, A small scorpion in Madagascar glows under UV light. The function of fluorescence is still unclear.

Student winner: Khristian V. Valencia, University of Antioquia, Colombia, Harlequin, A harlequin frog exhibits one of its less common morphs in the shade of the leaves of the Chocó understory.

Category 2 – Dynamic Ecosystems
Demonstrating interactions between different species within an ecosystem.

Winner: Roberto García Roa, University of Valencia, Small Warrior, A small spider found in Malaysia captures a comparatively huge ant.

Student winner: Pablo Javier Merlo, Nacional University of Córdoba, Are you seeing the same as me?, A cow and a chimango contemplate together the breath-taking Beagle Channel in the southernmost mountains of the Andes.

Category 3 – Individuals and Populations
A unique look at a species in its environment, either alone or as part of a population.

Winner: Felix Fornoff, University of Freiburg, Sleeping still, Leafcutter bee offspring in nests made from ovate leaf cuttings thoroughly arranged in multiple buffering layers by their mother bees.

Student winner: Khristian V. Valencia, University of Antioquia, Colombia, Watchful, A cloudy snake fixes its gaze on succulent prey.

Category 4 – People and Nature
An interesting and original take on the relationships between people and nature.

Winner: Andrew Whitworth, Osa Conservation & The University of Glasgow, Why did the sloth cross the road?, A female three-toed sloth crawls across the road. Luckily on this occasion the driver of the truck had spotted her in good time.

Student winner: Gergana Daskalova, University of EdinburghThawing away, A human silhouette is dwarfed by the size of a retrogressive thaw slump on Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island in Canada. The shifts resulting from these slumps can echo through the whole ecosystem. This photo was taken on an expedition supported by the National Geographic Society.

Category 5 – Ecology in Action
Showcasing the practice of ecology in action

Winner: Molly Penny, University of the West of EnglandThe Rhino’s Annual Haircut, A rhino gets its horn trimmed. This is done annually to help protect it from poaching.

Student winner: Gergana Daskalova, University of EdinburghCapturing tundra vegetation change, Drones are used to capture the bigger picture of how climate change is altering northern ecosystems. This photo was taken on an expedition supported by the National Geographic Society.

Category 6 – The Art of Ecology
A creative and original take on photography denoting ecology

Winner: Peter Hudson, Penn State University, For the love of Flamingos, A flock of flamingos fly high over Lake Magadi in a heart shape.

Student winner: Sanne Govaert, Ghent University, Teeny tiny world, This tiny mushroom, a Mycena spp., was growing inside a rotten tree trunk. Due to the microclimatic conditions inside the trunk, condensation had formed on the Mycena.

Header image: The Malagasy tree boa (Sanzinia madagascariensis) is a non-venomous snake species endemic to Madagascar. Big individuals became difficult to find in some areas surrounding human settlements. Fires produced by humans and poaching are only some of the threats these snakes must face currently. Credit: Roberto García Roa.

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