Exeter's Images of Research wows audiences

Published on: 22 June 2015

This competition is funded by Researcher Development and is run in partnership with Athena SWAN, Catalyst Project, Library Services and Research and Knowledge Transfer.

This year’s images of research competition introduced us to the Fish Selfie, an invisible Night Jar and the issue of plastic waste.

The stunning images were just some of the winning entries from Researcher Development’s Images of Research 2015 competition that saw early career research staff entering some amazing photography that communicated complex topics to a non-specialist audience.

The images, all of which were accompanied by an explanation of the related research were seen by 1,700 members of the public in a display for Universities week.


Overall winner, Jolyon Troscianko took the top prize with his image titled Fiery-necked Night Jar Hiding in Leaf Litter, which challenged the audience to try and spot the extremely well camouflaged bird in a nest of autumnal leaves.

His abstract explained: “Nightjars and other ground nesting bird species need to select their nest sites very carefully so that predators won't see them and eat their defenceless eggs. This creates an ideal study system for us to work out which aspects of camouflage protect them best in the wild.

“The nest and adult will be fixed in the same place for the three to four-week incubation period, making it easy for us to measure their camouflage and monitor their eggs' survival. Then we can see whether colour, pattern or other camouflage properties best predicted their survival.”

Jolyon, whose Fiery-necked Night Jar image also topped the technology category, uses photography as an integral part of his everyday research.

He said: “Photography is a big part of the work I do, using cameras as tools for measuring the properties of camouflage that might allow this nightjar to save her clutch from being spotted by passing predators while the females that chose other locations might not be so successful. It is precisely this selection pressure that has allowed such perfect examples of camouflage to evolve.”

He added: “I am delighted to have won this competition, and am lucky to have worked with such a charismatic and photogenic study species. I couldn't help taking a snap to show just how well camouflaged they can be, even when they are so close, staring straight at you.”

Society and culture

Sulayman Mourabit won the society and culture category with his image: Fish Selfie.

Sulayman explained: “I work on fish embryonic development, and more specifically on how environmental pollution can affect it.

“Since the zebrafish has come to the forefront of science, it has provided us with valuable insights into the very nature of our being. From the way we tick, to our relationship with the world, the zebrafish has opened the way to a healthier symbiosis with our planet. We have been using our oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes, as a great big sink for all our wastes; ironically, it is fish that we have sent out as sentinels to lead us into a cleaner future.

“This imaging competition was the perfect opportunity to acknowledge the importance of this modest little fish, and raise awareness of its role in resolving a myriad of scientific endeavours in our everyday life."

He added: “Photography isn’t just part of my everyday work, it’s also my hobby. I am very fortunate to be able to practice my passion at work and use it to contribute to science and society."

Sustainable futures

Topping the sustainable futures category was Andrew Watts with his image: Plastic Waste, which showed a plastic bottle top wedged between two rocks on a North Cornwall beach.

His abstract explained: “Plastic is part of our everyday life. More than 299 million tons were produced in 2013 alone and increasing year on year. It’s estimated that 10 per cent ends up in our seas with an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic currently in our seas and oceans.”

“[It is] quite ironic that this washing liquid bottle (which purpose was to help clean) is now littering our marine environment. HDPE, the plastic this top is made of is one of the most abundant plastics found on our beaches.”

Andy said he hoped wining his category would help raise awareness of the issue of plastic pollution entering the marine environment: “My hope is that this picture will make people think about their impact on our planet. Encouraging people to help out with beach cleans, dispose or recycle their plastic responsibility, and ultimately as a society reduce our dependence on this type of material.”

The winning entries are now on permanent display in the Research Commons on Streatham campus.

Category winners

The category winners were:


Winner: Crystalline by Leigh Shelford

Society and Culture

Winner: Fish Selfie by Sulayman Mourabit

Sustainable futures

Winner: Plastic Waste, Andrew Watts


Winner: Fiery-necked Night Jar Hiding in Leaf Litter by Jolyon Troscianko

Other entries, that were considered to have been ‘highly commended’, were:

Pick a Colour by Natalie Garrett
Mites by Georgianne Giffiths

All of the images entered into the competition can be seen below:

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