Award-Winning Ecology Photos Remind Us That Nature Is Awesome — and Complicated

Award-Winning Ecology Photos Remind Us That Nature Is Awesome — and Complicated
Lice surround the eye of a Kumlien's gull. (Photo: Rebecca Nason/British Ecological Society)

The animals and plants of Earth are in a perpetual state of interaction, leading to all sorts of fascinating creatures and relationships. The winning photos of the Capturing Ecology 2021 competition exemplify our planet’s penchant for diversity.

Organised by the British Ecological Society, the annual Capturing Ecology competition celebrates the diversity of ecology by honouring the best photos of plants and animals from across the globe. “Wildlife and nature photography is so vital today, as it helps to showcase parts of the natural world which would otherwise remain hidden from the view of most of us,” Laura Dyer, a competition judge, said in a press release. “And it is only by seeing the beauty of nature that we will be inspired to protect and conserve it.”

This year, a total of 15 photos were chosen as winners across six different categories. You can check them all out right here.

“Beauty in the (Mini)Beast”

Photo: Jack Marcus Smith/British Ecological Society Photo: Jack Marcus Smith/British Ecological Society

Jack Marcus Smith, winner of the Student Prize in the Up Close & Personal Category, captured this high-magnification portrait of a blowfly. “Here I wanted to reveal the intricacy and beauty of what many consider a pest,” he explained in a press kit. “The blowfly is perfect for illustrating complexity in miniature and here I have tried to capture the elaborate nature of each individual microstructure.”

“Kumlien’s Gull & Friends”

Photo: Rebecca Nason/British Ecological Society Photo: Rebecca Nason/British Ecological Society

Photographer Rebecca Nason was the Overall Winner of this year’s contest. Her striking photo shows a cluster of lice loitering around the eye of a Kumlien’s gull.

“Bat OneHealth”

Photo: Pete Hudson/British Ecological Society Photo: Pete Hudson/British Ecological Society

Pete Hudson from Penn State University won the Ecology in Action category for his photo of a bat being swabbed for viruses. “While many of us are suffering with vaccines and regular swabs, the poor bats are also being sampled,” Hudson explained. “At the start of the pandemic, our team were in Bangladesh sampling fruit bats near locations where Nipah virus had infected humans and recording virus and new viral sequences.”

“Hidden Lynx”

Photo: Dani Davis/British Ecological Society Photo: Dani Davis/British Ecological Society

This incredible photo shows a green lynx spider resting on a budding liatris while clinging to its catch, a bumblebee. Dani Davis from Florida State University won the overall Student Winner prize for the image.

“It’s Finger Lickin’ Good”

Photo: Vijay Karthick/British Ecological Society Photo: Vijay Karthick/British Ecological Society

Top prize in the Dynamic Ecosystems category went to Vijay Karthick from India’s Nature Conservation Foundation. Karthick’s winning photo shows a snail (Indrella ampulla) feasting on Xylaria fungi, also known as dead man’s fingers.

“Nature’s Landmine”

Photo: John Benjamin Owens/British Ecological Society Photo: John Benjamin Owens/British Ecological Society

John Benjamin Owens of Bangor University won the Student Prize in the People & Nature category. It shows a Russell’s viper slithering through rice paddies, posing a threat to agricultural workers.

“Poisonous Sentinel”

Photo: Jack Marcus Smith/British Ecological Society Photo: Jack Marcus Smith/British Ecological Society

A highly territorial, and very poisonous, granular dart frog is seen protecting its territory in this photo taken by Jack Marcus Smith. The photo was awarded the Student Prize in the Individuals & Populations category.

“Quick Catch”

Photo: Dani Davis/British Ecological Society Photo: Dani Davis/British Ecological Society

Student Prize in the Dynamic Ecosystems category went to Dani Davis. In the photo, a small regal jumping spider (Phidippus regius) clutches a freshly caught sulphur butterfly.

“Reintroduction in Action”

Photo: Joshua Powell/British Ecological Society Photo: Joshua Powell/British Ecological Society

Veterinarians from the South Korean National Park Service prepare to transport a female Asiatic black bear to Jirisan National Park. The image, taken by Joshua Powell from the Zoological Society of London, was winner of the Student Prize in the Ecology in Action category.

“Spotlight”

Photo: Alicia Hayden/British Ecological Society Photo: Alicia Hayden/British Ecological Society

“This spider was spending a lot of time repairing its web, and the streetlamp highlighted the movement of its legs as I took the photo,” said photographer Alicia Hayden from the University of West England. “This illustrates the urban wildlife which is not usually acknowledged, showing the great diversity of wildlife in our urban spaces.” Hayden’s photo won the Student Prize in the Art of Ecology category.

“The Fairy of the Forests”

Photo: Roberto Garcia Roa/British Ecological Society Photo: Roberto Garcia Roa/British Ecological Society

Runner up in the Overall Winner category went to Spain’s Roberto Garcia Roa from the University of Valencia. It’s a rare image of Valenciolenda fadaforesta, a cave-dwelling bug nicknamed “fairy of the Valencian forests.”

“Tsunami”

Image: Molly Dunn/British Ecological Society Image: Molly Dunn/British Ecological Society

Photographer Molly Dunn from Florence Institute of Design International captured this gloomy photo on a small urban street in Florence, Italy, during the early spring of 2021. The image, winner of the People and Nature category, shows dormant vines stretching across a roadside wall, the bottom of which was made dark by car exhaust.

“Amazonian Mosaic”

Photo: Raul Costa-Pereira/British Ecological Society Photo: Raul Costa-Pereira/British Ecological Society

The best photo in the Art of Ecology category shows the leaves of an Amazonian palm tree covered in mosses, lichens, and fungi. Raul Costa-Pereira captured the photo in a forest near Manaus, Brazil.

“Beautiful Bryophyte”

Photo: Alicia Hayden/British Ecological Society Photo: Alicia Hayden/British Ecological Society

Moss growing on a wall in Cornwall, England, earned Alicia Hayden top prize in the Up Close & Personal category.

“Fleeting Race”

Photo: Roberto Garcia Roa/British Ecological Society Photo: Roberto Garcia Roa/British Ecological Society

“A large flock of gulls performed short but very quick flights to move around a field of rice during the first hours of the morning,” explained photographer Roberto Garcia Roa, winner of the Individuals & Populations category. “The fog in the environment and the fast movements of each individual allowed me to capture this dynamic but also frozen image of such a chaotic situation.”