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BMC Ecology Image Competition winners reveal the private lives of animals and plants

BMC Ecology Image Competition winners reveal the private lives of animals and plants
29 Aug 2014

Out in the field, ecologists get a chance to see intimate moments in the lives of the animals and plants they study. We are proud to announce the winners of the BMC Ecology Image Competition, which capture the beauty of ecological interactions and reflect scientists’ affinity with their subjects.

The winning image catches a Namaqua Rock Mouse (Aethomys namaquensis) having a midnight snack on Pagoda Lily (Whiteheadia biflia) pollen. 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, by carrying the pollen from flower to flower on their nose. It was believed impossible to observe this animal directly, but the mice became so used to Petra, she was able to take this photograph with a red foil-covered headlamp and flash.

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.”

The section winners are:
• Behavioural and Physiological Ecology: Camponotus morosus ant being attacked by a parasitoid phorid fly by Bernardo Segura
• Community, Population and Marcoecology: Crab spider on a flower by Andrew J. Crawford
• Conservation Ecology and Biodiversity Research: Healthy coral reef ecosystems are becoming a rarity by Catherine Kim
• Landscape Ecology and Ecosystems: Death valley by Benjamin Blonder
• Theoretical Ecology and Models: Computational simulations of the coevolution of prey camouflage and predator vision by Kyle Harrington
• Editors Pick: King penguin: an endangered species? By Laetitia Kernaleguen

In addition to the prize money for the winners, BMC Ecology will also make a donation to Caspar Henderson’s chosen charity, Trees for Life (

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.”

All of the images are available on request. Please contact Anna Perman (


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Notes to Editor

BMC Ecology Image Competition 2014: The Winning Images
Simon Harold, Caspar Henderson, Michel Baguette, Michael B Bonsall, David P Hughes and Josef Settele
BMC Ecology 2014, 14:24

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