Scientists rewarded for creative flair in national science photo competition
19 February 2010
The winners of the inaugural Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition are announced today (19 February 2010).
BBSRC-funded researchers were asked to submit images that capture the excitement of new knowledge; the intricacies of research; or the sheer beauty of the natural world.
Images were entered into 1 of 3 categories:
- Concepts - Illustrations of concepts in any area of contemporary bioscience research, including standard, generated or computer-manipulated images
- Agriculture, Food, Diet and Health - Scientific images illustrating the science underpinning agriculture, food, and diet and health
- People - Images of people that convey either the role of researchers or the impact of research on everyday life
The winner of each category receives £500 worth of vouchers to purchase photographic equipment. A runner up prize of £100 of vouchers is also awarded in each category. There is one overall winner of the competition who receives £700 of vouchers.
The researchers' success in the competition is down to their ability to achieve an image that not only has aesthetic merit, but also succeeds in conveying complex scientific subjects in research, issues in science and society, life in research, as well as contemporary topics in bioscience (such as, but not limited to, food security, bioenergy, and health).
Paul Gemmill, BBSRC Director of Communications and Information Management said: "The entrants gave the competition judges a difficult job because the standard of images entered for the compeition was remarkably high. The creative flair shown by scientists in our community is impressive and their skill in using photographs to communicate ideas in bioscience is highly commendable. We would like to congratulate the winners and thank everyone who entered for their efforts in creating these really wonderful images."
Click on the thumbnail to view and download full-size image.
Thomas Endlein, University of Cambridge
This image wins the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition. It shows an Asian Weaver ant, upside down on a smooth surface, and carrying a weight in its jaws.
Asian Weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) can carry weights of more than 100 times their own body weight whilst upside down on a smooth surface. To do this, they have incredibly sticky pads on their feet. However, this does not stop them from running quickly across such surfaces. Research has revealed how they cope with the conflict of sticking to a surface but not getting stuck.
Weaver ants are known for building nests using leaves woven together with silk. They are very territorial and their tendency to defend against intruders can make them a useful tool in controlling agricultural insect pests, avoiding the need for chemical insecticides. They have traditionally been used in this way in Chinese and Southeast Asian citrus orchards for at least 1,500 years.
Concepts category winner
Jolyon Troscianko, University of Birmingham
This image wins the Concepts category in the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition. It shows a New Caledonian crow using a stick to fish food out of a small hole.
New Caledonian crows use stick tools for 'fishing' wood-boring beetle larvae from their burrows in decaying tree trunks. They tease the larvae by repeatedly poking them with a tool, encouraging them to defend themselves and bite the tool-tip with their powerful mandibles. Once firmly attached to the tool, the crows carefully withdraw the larvae from their deadwood fortresses. Motion-triggered video cameras recently revealed that individual crows may take years to become proficient at mastering the subtleties of this extraction technique (Bluff et al. 2010, Proc. R. Soc. B). This image is a still taken from film showing this unique predator-prey relationship from the larva's perspective.
Concepts category runner up
Emma Foster, University of Leeds
This image is runner up in the Concepts category in the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition. It shows a Southern Resident killer whale in Puget Sound, USA.
To assess the health of an ecosystem you can look at the health of the top predators in the environment - in this case, killer whales. The Southern Resident killer whale population was classified as endangered in 2006. It is important to increase public awareness of the threats facing these whales and the measures people are going to, to conserve them.
Agriculture, Food, Diet and Health category winner
Felicity Crotty, North Wyke Research and University of Plymouth
This image wins the Agriculture, Food, Diet and Health category in the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition. It shows mites (Acari), springtails (Collembola) and other insects that were collected from a soil sample.
Soil is one of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth and is sometimes referred to as "the poor man's rainforest". The mites and springtails shown here are some of the most abundant creatures found in soil and they play vitally important roles as part of the food chain in this environment.
Understanding the ecology of soil will be vital in meeting the challenge of feeding 9 billion people worldwide by 2050.
Agriculture, Food, Diet and Health category runner up
Rob Wüst, University of Leeds
This image is runner up in the Agriculture, Food, Diet and Health category in the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition. It is a composite image showing tiny blood vessels from skeletal muscle as viewed under a microscope, with smoke apparently weaving in between.
Researchers are investigating the effects of smoking on how well muscles work. Smokers may tend to experience tiredness in their muscles more easily than people who do not smoke, which could be down to how much oxygen reaches the muscle and how it is used once it gets there.
This work can also tell us about the fundamental relationships between oxygen supply and utilisation in skeletal muscle tissue.
People category winner
Emma Foster, University of Leeds
This image wins the People category in the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition. It shows a fisherman catching wild salmon in Puget Sound, USA.
Impacts from human beings such as urbanisation, fishing activities, dam building, forestry, agriculture, mining and poor artificial breeding practices have had a profound effect on the depletion of wild salmon stocks. Not only does this affect the animals that rely on wild fish as their primary food source, but also impacts the local fishing communities. Essential research and recovery plans are being carried out.
People category runner up
Marcus Fischer, University of York
This image is runner up in the People category in the Biotechnology and Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition. It is a composite image of a researcher working with a pipette and small tube with a sheet of equations overlaid.
Harmony of theoretical and practical research is almost a form of art. Recognising the importance of integrating both is likely to induce a paradigm change towards an awareness for interdisciplinary research. For example, in drug discovery classical 'one gene = one disease' viewpoints are starting to be replaced by holistic systems biology approaches. Using this approach it is possible to design promiscuous drugs to tackle multifactorial diseases such as cancer.
BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.
BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:
- The Babraham Institute
- Institute for Animal Health
- Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Studies (Aberystwyth University)
- Institute of Food Research
- John Innes Centre
- The Genome Analysis Centre
- The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
- Rothamsted Research
The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.
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