There are plenty of nature photography competitions throughout the year, but few honor those who both work in the field and are talented photographers. The British Ecological Society annual photo competition stands out from the rest because every image was taken by an ecologist or a student studying ecology. Most of the photographs represent the particular person's area of expertise/study.
This year's overall winner is Chris Oosthuizen, who spent a year on Marion Island (part of the Prince Edward Islands in the Indian Ocean) researching seals and killer whales, for his image of an adult king penguin surrounded by chicks in a breeding colony.
"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," said Oosthuizen.
Judges also selected an overall student winner. Adrià López Baucells is studying the consequences of Amazonian rain forest fragmentation on insectivorous bats as part of his Ph.D. project at the University of Lisbon. Baucells made history by capturing a first: a fringe-lipped bat sneaking up on a little yellow frog, which you can see below.
The judging panel was comprised of six ecologists and award-winning photographers. Other categories include Dynamic Ecosystems, Ecology in Action and The Art of Ecology among others.
"The high standard of submissions this year made selecting winners a big challenge. Some entries captured fleeting and intimate insights into animals' lives, which requires technical prowess and patience to achieve," said Richard Bardgett, president of the British Ecological Society.
You can see the rest of the winning images, along with comments by each photographer, below.
Overall Student Winner
"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.
"We reported two events of fringe-lipped bats preying on tree frogs (Scinax cf. garbei and Scinax cruentommus) in the North-Western Journal of Zoology in 2016. Taking advantage of our long fieldwork carried out for the PDBFF project (Projeto Dinâmica Biológica de Fragmentos Florestais) in the central Amazon, we managed to photograph a fringe-lipped bat approaching one of their newly discovered targets." — Adrià López Baucells
"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." — Roberto García-Roa
"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." — Peter J Hudson
Up Close and Personal Winner
"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." — Roberto García-Roa
Up Close and Personal Student Winner
"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." — Alex Edwards
Dynamic Ecosystems Winner
"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." — Chris Oosthuizen
Dynamic Ecosystems Student Winner
"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." — Sandra Angers-Blondin
Individuals and Populations Winner
"If I was asked to pick one representative bat species in the Amazon, I would chose 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." — Adrià López Baucells
Individuals and Populations Student Winner
"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." — Adrià López Baucells
Ecology in Action Winner
"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." — Dominik Behr
Ecology in Action Student Winner
"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." — Ella Cooke
People and Nature Winner
"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'. — Nibedita Mukherjee
People and Nature Student Winner
"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." — Lydia Gibson
The Art of Ecology Winner
"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." — Mark Tatchell
The Art of Ecology Student Winner
"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." — Mathilde Le Moullec