Photo competition shows off nature's best

"A harem of 127 females is a prize that has to be earned. Where female Southern Elephant Seals provide all the parental care, they will only reproduce in the territory of the biggest males, the biggest fathers for their offspring. Females average 400 to 900 kg, while males weigh up to 4 tons; Southern Elephant Seals show the largest sexual dimorphism among land breeding mammals. When a male challenges the head of a harem he needs to prove his strength at a great cost, resulting in a fascinating and captivating fight between the two giants."
Laetitia Kernaleguen

Taking a great picture is tricky, but taking a photo that captures the eloquence of the ecological process as art can be much more difficult.

BioMed Central, a Science, Technology and Medicine publisher who uses the open access publishing model, recently hosted a competition open to anyone who was affiliated with a research institution. This left competitors coming from a variety of fields, with a diverse skill set, and not many of them with an artistic background. They only needed one objective in order to qualify, every entry needed to depict a specific ecological interaction, which is definitely not an easy task.

The winning photograph, shot by Moritz Muschick from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, shows a stick insect camouflaged by a redwood tree. The viewer of the picture is able to see the bug as a predator would, versus seeing the bug against a blank background, letting its true capabilities show through.

"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," said Simon Harold, senior executive editor for the BMC Series of journals in statement. "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 visualize data in what is an inherently noisy natural world."

Photos were entered as part of five categories; Behavioral and Physiological Ecology, Community, Population and Marcoecology, Conservation Ecology and Biodiversity Research, Landscape Ecology and Ecosystems, and Theoretical Ecology and Models.