BMC Ecology and Evolution Image Competition 2021: the winning images!

In celebration of the launch of BMC Ecology and Evolution, we are delighted to announce the winning images of the 2021 photography competition. Many congratulations to all our winners! The competition attracted entries from researchers all around the world eager to use their creativity to highlight their work and capture biodiversity, how it arose and why we should conserve it. BMC Ecology and Evolution invited anyone affiliated with a research institution to submit to one of the following six categories: ‘Conservation Biology’, ‘Evolutionary Developmental Biology and Biodiversity’, ‘Behavioural Ecology’, ‘Human Evolution and Ecology’, ‘Population Ecology’ and ‘Ecological Developmental Biology’.

Our Senior Editorial Board Members lent their expertise to judge the entrants to the competition, selecting the overall winner, runner up and best image from each category. The board members considered the scientific story behind the photos submitted in addition to their artistic judgement.

Please enjoy viewing our winning images and discovering the stories behind the camera!

Overall Winner and Best Image for ‘Conservation Biology’

The overall winning image by Kristen Brown from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA depicts a school of jack fish in a spiral formation at Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Kristen Brown said: “This image represents both the beauty and bounty of our oceans as well as the spiraling crisis unfolding within the marine environment. Coral reefs with high coral cover and plentiful fish populations like this one at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef are sadly becoming rarer. Without a concentrated effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve water quality, coral reefs as we know them are at risk of disappearing within our lifetime.” Senior Editorial Board Member Josef Settele recommended the entry, saying: “Marine biodiversity sustains life and the health of our planet, but human activities are threatening the well-being of the world’s oceans. Kristen Brown’s striking image is a symbol for the need for concentrated efforts to manage biodiversity loss and set conservation priorities.”

Runner Up and Best Image for ‘Evolutionary Developmental Biology and Biodiversity’ 

Our runner up and best image for this category was submitted by Kseniya Vereshchagina, an ecologist who studies Lake Baikal in south-eastern Siberia. Lake Baikal is one of the oldest and deepest lakes in the world, giving rise to rich and particularly unique freshwater fauna. However, Kseniya explains that in areas of heavy industry and active tourism, “there is a significant impact on coastal communities.” Kseniya and her lab group at Irkutsk State University found that in areas of intense human activity, the immunity of endemic amphipod crustaceans is weakened, making them more susceptible to parasitic infection. Kseniya tells us that this image shows “an endemic amphipod crustacean densely covered with an overgrown colony of parasitic ciliates.” Lake Baikal holds exceptional scientific value to ecologists and evolutionary biologists. Such research highlights the need to minimize the impact of human activity on this precious site.

Behavioral Ecology

This stark winning image for the ‘Behavioral Ecology category’ was submitted by an evolutionary biologist and conservation photographer affiliated with the University of Valencia, Spain. Roberto tells us that “Spiders are one of the most sophisticated hunters on earth. Nevertheless, they cannot escape from what evolution has provided to other species. In particular, some groups of wasps are specialized in hunting spiders and use them as a trophic resource for their larvae. I found this epic scene in a wall of a biological station in Tiputini, Ecuador.”

Population Ecology

The winning image for the ‘Population Ecology’ category was also submitted by Roberto García-Roa. Roberto said: “Thousands of soldier termites are able to migrate in a complex social environment where each individual has its own mission framed altogether in a global objective: the survivorship and reproduction of the colony. In this case, these termites used meters of an abandoned rope to move across the Malaysian forest. Once humans disappear, nature recovers its space and uses what is needed to survive.”

Human Evolution and Ecology

Our winner in this category entitled “Learning to Be Human” was captured by Roberto García-Roa. Primates can be useful models to study the evolution of human locomotion. To caption this winning image, Roberto García-Roa’s writes, “To understand our present and predict our future, humans aim to gain enough knowledge to fill the gap of our past. Bipedalism, for example, is probably one of the most critical steps in our evolutionary history. How did it happen? With just a few seconds to capture this scene in France, I was allowed to photograph how a baboon Papio learnt to walk on two legs in a project that aims to investigate how bipedalism evolved in hominids.”

Ecological Developmental Biology

Our winner in this category was an entry by Chey Chapman, a PhD student studying the mechanisms underlying zebrafish tissue regeneration at the Royal Veterinary College, the University of London. Mammals cannot repair severe damage to tissues – a severed limb does not grow back. However, zebrafish have a spectacular ability to regenerate various tissues after traumatic injury. Chey tells us that “This image shows the blood vessels in a regenerated zebrafish tail fin two weeks after clipping at the horizontal white line. Whether regeneration is a primitive or adaptive trait to environmental conditions is the subject of much debate, and the mechanisms underlying the regeneration process are not yet fully understood. Transgenic zebrafish, such as the line used to generate this image, are an important tool to help us better understand why some animals have the power of regeneration by allowing the visualization of certain cell types labelled by fluorescent reporters.”

Editor’s Pick

The Editor’s pick titled ‘Eerie Stalker’ by Dimitri Ouboter from the Institute for Neotropical Wildlife and Environmental Studies, Suriname captures a Giant Gladiator Frog seconds before escaping from an attempted snake attack. Giant Gladiator Frogs have been previously observed escaping from the jaws of snakes by emitting distress calls, jumping and inflating their lungs, making it harder for small snakes to hold on to them.

Many congratulations to all of our winners! Their images have been released under a Creative Commons Attribution License ( CC BY ), so everyone is welcome and encouraged to share them freely, as long as you clearly attribute the image author.

View the latest posts on the BMC Series blog homepage