Ecological process can be complex, but they often have striking visual elements. BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Ecology is proud to announce the winners of its Image Competition today, Friday 22 March 2013.
The overall winning image depicts a stick insect (Timema poppensis), almost but not quite, camouflaged against its host, the redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens). The contrast of stunning green stripes and a pitch black background highlights the coevolution of the two species - placing the viewer into the role of a predatory bird responsible for selecting this colourful mimicry. The eye behind the winning image is Moritz Muschick from the University of Sheffield.
The runner up depicts a subalpine flower meadow in Colorado, captured by Benjamin Blonder from the University of Arizona. The judges say: 'The emphasis here is not on survival, but on reproduction: the dull but functional photosynthetic green seems an almost insignificant background compared to the waving of riotously coloured floral genitalia.'
The Image Competition was open to everyone affiliated with a research institution. From fieldworkers to desk-based computational modellers, the entries needed to depict a specific ecological interaction, and could be submitted to one of five categories that reflect the editorial sections of the journal.
In addition to the winner and runner up, the judges, who include Bang Goes the Theory's Dr Yan Wong, chose five section winners, and an editor's pick. They struggled with their decisions as the standard of entries was so high, so in addition there are nineteen 'highly commended' images that excel in either sheer visual beauty, technical skill, or storytelling.
The section winners are:
- Behavioural and Physiological Ecology: Laetitia Kernaleguen. Two male Southern elephant seals fighting over a harem of females
- Community, Population and Marcoecology: Michael Siva-Jothy. Scabius flower, Scarce swallowtail and a Polistine wasp
- Conservation Ecology and Biodiversity Research: Hara Woltz. Galapagos tortoise on a human road on Santa Cruz island
- Landscape Ecology and Ecosystems: Yulin Jia. Rice paddy in Yuanyang, China.
- Theoretical Ecology and Models: Chaitanya Gokhale. Multiple players and the maintenance of biodiversity
- Editors Pick: Raf Aerts. Surveying old-growth secondary forest, Peru
In an editorial describing the winners Dr Yan Wong says: "Looking through the entries was a fascinating journey into a thriving jungle of ecological research - all the more enjoyable because many of the images submitted were visually stunning. This wasn't simply a search for an amazing picture, however. Just as important were the ecological processes depicted. Ideally, images should immediately hint at one or more ecological processes, yet leave some hidden depths which open up on closer inspection."
Simon Harold, Senior Executive Editor for the BMC Series of journals says: "Although natural history photography competitions are relatively commonplace in this era of digital photography, it struck me that professional ecologists might view the natural world differently to wildlife photographers or amateur naturalists. This competition was a means for these researchers to show off what they find so compelling about the research to which they have dedicated their working lives - from the world of lowly arctic bacteria, to the richly biodiverse tropics. And this wasn't only a photo competition. A dedicated category for the more theoretical side of this science also gave a nice opportunity for desk-bound ecologists to get creative and come up with some neat ways to visualise data in what is an inherently noisy natural world."
The journal is also donating money to the Wytham Woods Appeal Fund, which is affiliated to Oxford University. Wytham Wood were bequeathed to the University in 1943, and are one of the most studied areas of woodland in the world.
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