Slideshow: Photo contest captures stunning interplay between plants and animals

More than most researchers, ecologists pay heed to the complex interplay between plants, animals, and the environment. And sometimes they capture the best interactions on film. In 2012, recognizing that there might be hidden photographic gems among all the data slides in ecologists’ collections, the journal BMC Ecology established a photo contest. Anyone affiliated with a research institution can win up to $400 for a photo or visualization image that best captures the aesthetics of ecological interactions.

In this second round of the annual competition, the journal’s editorial board and a guest judge, Caspar Henderson, author of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary, picked a furry pollinator as the winner from among 313 entries submitted by 94 researchers. With her picture, ecologist Petra Wester from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf in Germany documented for the first time that the Namaqua rock mouse (Aethomys namaquensis) pollinates the pagoda lily (Whiteheadia bifolia) in South Africa. The runner-up was a close-up of an albatross feeding her chick, and other images ranging from huddled penguin chicks to a visualization of simulations of predator-prey interactions and the evolution of camouflage earned recognition as the best photos on various subfields, such as behavioral and physiological ecology, landscape ecology, and ecosystems and theoretical ecology and models.