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NERC announces the winner of its first photo and essay competition

The winners of NERC's inaugural short article and photography competition were announced at an awards ceremony in central London this evening.

The winning essay, by Laura Hepburn of the University of Southampton, details the child-like excitement she felt during a recent research voyage when she first saw underwater hydrothermal vents blowing their signature black smoke across her monitoring screens. These are underwater fissures that erupt volcanic gasses and boiling water.

The winning photograph, by Paul Hopwood of the University of Exeter, is a disturbing, but eye-catching image of a pair of burying beetles processing an animal carcass.

Burying beetles

Burying beetles processing an animal carcass. Copyright Paul Hopwood. Click the photo to view the full image (196KB).

Essay entries were judged on the ability of applicants to communicate the excitement of their PhD research to a non-specialist audience, while the photography section was judged on eye-catching imagery and whether or not the image conveyed the applicants' research.

The entries, of which 67 were received, were independently ranked by the judges with the three highest ranking receiving a prize of up to 500.

Hepburn's highly descriptive writing style easily met all of the judging criteria. Her essay leads the reader on a journey that begins with a young inquisitive girl at an aquarium and ends with a competent researcher feeding the curious child still inside. Her PhD explores the geochemistry of these hydrothermal vents in the Southern Ocean.

Paul Hopwood's image demands the viewer do a double take as they realise the brightly coloured beetles aren't walking on mud, but on a carcass that the female of the pair is currently tearing apart, while the male looks after their offspring.

Hopwood is exploring how the parental environment experienced by burying beetle offspring affects their success and the parenting strategies

Contact: Harriet Jarlett
Natural Environment Research Council

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