‘Capturing Ecology’ Photography Competition – The Winners in Pictures

30 November 2018

An image of a lone adult king penguin standing amongst a crowd of chicks won the first prize in the British Ecological Society’s annual photography competition, ‘Capturing Ecology’.

The photographer, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pretoria Chris Oosthuizen, also won the Dynamic Ecosystems category with an image of a southern giant petrel preying on a king penguin chick.

Oosthuizen took his winning photograph while spending a year on the remote Marion Island (part of the Prince Edward Islands in the sub-Antarctic) conducting research on seals and killer whales. 

He said of the image: ’Although the global population of king penguins is large, populations inhabiting islands around the Antarctic face an uncertain future. Global climate change may shift the oceanic fronts where they feed further away from breeding sites, forcing penguins to travel farther to reach their foraging grounds.’

The overall student winner is Adrià López Baucells, who is studying the consequences of Amazonian rainforest fragmentation on insectivorous bats as part of his PhD project at the University of Lisbon. Using a motion sensor and four flashes synchronised with the camera, Lopez-Baucells and colleague Oriol Massana managed to capture for the first time a fringe-lipped bat sneaking up on a little yellow frog of the genus Scinax.

By overall student winner Adrià López Baucells, University of Lisbon, Shadows in the sky​, Manaus, Brazil
The neotropical fringe-lipped bat (​Trachops cirrhosus​) is a medium-sized bat found in dry and moist forests extending from Mexico to Brazil. The species is easily identified by its prominent papilla-like projections on the lips and muzzle. This is one of the few neotropical bats known to capture and prey on vertebrate species. Actually, fringe-lipped bats are known mostly for their frog-eating habits. However, their diet is still poorly understood in the Amazon.

With images taken by international ecologists and students, British Ecological Society’s annual photography competition celebrates the diversity of ecology. Capturing flora and fauna from across the planet, subjects range from African wild dog research to an artistic take on Galapagos iguanas to images exploring the relationships between people and nature.

With the support of publishing partner Wiley, the winning images will be exhibited at the Society’s annual conference in Birmingham next month (16-19 December 2018), 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 public exhibition in London, running from 21-27 January 2019.

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

Other winners:

Overall runners up:

Peter J Hudson, Penn State University, Pollination!, Arizona, USA / British Ecological Society
Bats act as disease reservoirs for emerging infections and our studies in Australia have shown they only transmit Hendra to horses and people when they are starving. We now have evidence that this is caused by deforestation and have started a rewilding of native trees.

Roberto García-Roa, University of Valencia, Living fossil, Morocco / British Ecological Society
Cerastes vipera is one of the snake species that live buried in the sand to adapt to the warm conditions of the environment. Each scale of its body is shaped like a small spoon that is used with a hypnotic movement to go into the sand, avoid predators and wait for prey.

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, Web of life, Spain / British Ecological Society
It’s only going really close to them one can see that spiders, which are usually hated by a big part of society, are also vulnerable. The spider web is their safeguard where they eat, mate and are protected from most potential predators, so they build a web of life in their dark and small world. Only the beauty of this animals is comparable to the bad reputation this group has.

Student winner: Alex Edwards, University of Plymouth, Look into my eyes, Costa Rica / British Ecological Society
Whilst studying herpetofauna in the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, in Costa Rica, I came across this fantastic little Powdered Glass Frog (​Teratohyla pulverata​) perched on a leaf in the rainforest.

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

Winner: Chris Oosthuizen, University of Pretoria, Stinkpot special: Penguin a la King, Marion Island (Prince Edward Islands) / British Ecological Society
A southern giant petrel (​Macronectes giganteus​), also known as a stinker or stinkpot, preys on a young king penguin chick (Aptenodytes patagonicus), while adult king penguins look on. Despite their extensive reliance on carrion, southern giant petrels are apt terrestrial predators, and predatory interactions between petrels and penguins are common.

Student winner: Sandra Angers-Blondin, University of Edinburgh, Fox on the hunt, Canada / British Ecological Society
A red fox (​Vulpes vulpes)​ hunting for tundra voles and lemmings in the Canadian Arctic. Foxes can sense their prey scurrying in the grass or snow, and jump to attack from above. I watched this particular fox over several days, and most of his hunts were successful.

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

Winner: Adrià López Baucells, University of Lisbon, Flying in the rain,  Manaus, Brazil / British Ecological Society
If I was asked to pick one representative bat species in the Amazon, I would choose the Seba’s short-tailed bat (​Carollia perspicillata)​ without hesitation. It is one of the most common species in the Amazon region and is superabundant in young forests and regrowth vegetation, where it feeds on juicy fruits from pioneering plants such as ​Vismia​ or ​Cecropia​. The Seba’s short-tailed bat is one of those species that many people forget due to its commonness as our attention is focused on rare and surprising sightings. However, most of the essential ecosystem services on which our survival depends, such as seed dispersal, forest regeneration and recovery, will be carried out by species like ​C. perspicillata​.

Student winner: Adrià López Baucells, University of Lisbon, Climbing in the tropics, Manaus, Brazil  / British Ecological Society
While walking in the pristine Amazon rainforest looking for bat roosts and selecting spots to set up our mist nets to capture bats for our scientific research, a faint and almost imperceptible noise suddenly caught our attention just above our heads.
An outstanding anteater (​Tamandua tetradactyla​) was climbing with exceptional ability in a tangled mess of branches and lianas. With an enjoyable smile and unbelievable calmness, the animal observed our movements, inspected how we took the camera out of our bags, slowly and smoothly, and examined our agitation. He seemed to enjoy being the subject of a photography session in the most biodiverse ecosystem on Earth. He then continued climbing up to the canopy where we eventually lost sight of him.

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

Winner: Nibedita Mukherjee, University of Exeter, Man in mangrove, Kerala in India / British Ecological Society
The value of mangrove ecosystems to local communities and particularly to traditional fishermen around the world is well recognised. This picture was taken during the early hours of the morning while we both were doing our respective “fieldwork”.

Student winner: Lydia Gibson, UCL, Birds of a feather, Greater Antilles in the Caribbean / British Ecological Society
Bird hunting is part of rural Caribbean culture and a mechanism through which other associated forest lore and tradition – such as wayfinding and plant knowledge that can improve conservation science – are maintained. This photograph, taken in a newly designated protected area, captures the complex biological and cultural considerations of hunting threatened parrots.

Category 5 – Ecology in Action

Showcasing the practice of ecology in action

Winner: Dominik Behr, University of Zurich and Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, The tables have turned. Okavango Delta, Botswana / British Ecological Society
This image shows an African wild dog pup playing with a tranquilizer dart. After we anaesthetised an adult individual in a pack, this pup was giving us a hard time to recover the dart and seemed very proud of his newly found toy.

Student winner​​: Ella Cooke, BSc Ecology and Conservation, ​UV beetle tracking / British Ecological Society
The unique and innovative opportunity to track invertebrates using ultraviolet powder and torches was a big highlight of the British Ecological Society’s 2018 Summer School for me. The dark environment, coupled with the vibrant colours, presented some challenging yet exciting conditions to test my wildlife photography skills in.

Category 6 – The Art of Ecology

A creative and original take on photography denoting ecology

Winner: ​​Mark Tatchell, retired ecologist, Marine iguanas warm up. Galapagos Islands / British Ecological Society
Marine iguanas on the Galapagos Islands need to warm up each day before they can become active. These individuals had climbed onto a washed up tree stump on the beach on Isabela Island to catch the sun’s rays. The black and white image enhances the drama of the habitat.

Student winner:​​ Mathilde Le Moullec, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Can you feel the harsh climate of the high Arctic? Svalbard, Norway / British Ecological Society
Shrub ring-growth is irregular under the high-arctic Svalbard climate. The story started onboard a sailboat at the northern distribution margin of shrubs. Months in the laboratory generated 2 mm cross-sections of ​Salix polaris​… Art became science, developing ring-growth time-series retrospectively tracking vascular plants’ biomass.


Featured image by overall winner Chris Oosthuizen, University of Pretoria, ‘Stand out from the crowd’, Marion Island (Prince Edward Islands), © Chris Oosthuizen / British Ecological Society