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Leeds ecologists snap up photo prizes

A rare glimpse into the life of the Indian leopard. Photo credit: Miss Nisha Owen

A rare glimpse into the life of the Indian leopard. Photo credit: Miss Nisha Owen


Two faculty PhD students have snapped up top prizes in this year's British Ecological Society photographic competition.

For the second year running, ecologist Ute Bradter won first prize - worth £750 - for Pecking Order, her extraordinary photograph of a group of African white-backed vultures (Gyps africanus) squabbling for dominance over a dead buffalo in South Africa's Krüger National Park.

Another Leeds PhD student, Nisha Owen, won the Whole Organism category of the competition - and £40 in book tokens - for her image of an Indian leopard and her cub relaxing in a tree to escape the midday heat in South India's Bandipur National Park.

Both images will be on show at the University of Leeds during the BES Annual Meeting from 7-9 September 2010 as part of Celebrating Ecology - an exhibition of stunning photographs from the BES photographic competition.

Talking about her winning entry, Ute says: "The sheer size of the birds when they spread their wings in their attempts to dominate the dinner table was astonishing. The most impressive scenes, like the one in this picture, were only brief and I am glad to have captured this fleeting moment on camera to fully appreciate it.

"I took the picture in October last year in Krüger National Park, South Africa. We came across two buffaloes killed by three young male lions the afternoon before. Two lions were lying in the shade by the remains of one buffalo, the other lion lay on guard nearby by the second and almost untouched carcass.

"We saw several vultures behind the bushes keeping a respectful distance. As the morning wore on and the air warmed up, the lion on buffalo watch duty joined the other two in the shade. Slowly the vultures approached the now unattended buffalo. Occasionally, a lion would charge and scatter the vultures before rejoining his companions in the shade.

"It had been very dry in Krüger for some time and the fleeing vultures kicked up a lot of dust which transformed the landscape into a red-tinted black and whitish picture. As time wore on, the lions seemed to become more and more reluctant to drag their heavy bellies up for a run in the heat. It did not take long for the vultures to pile in and the squabbling, fighting and bickering amongst them began in earnest."

Ute is doing a PhD at the University of Leeds, working on breeding waders in the Yorkshire Dales. She is looking at habitat information at different spatial scales and how this information can be used in models of species distribution and abundance to get more accurate predictions. Ute studied biology in Germany, completing a thesis on bird ecology and then worked for 10 years in bird research before coming to Leeds.

Open to all BES members, the BES photographic competition attracts more than 100 entries each year. The overall winner receives £750 and the overall runner-up £250. The Student award winner receives £100, and winning entries for each category are exhibited at the BES Annual Meeting and published in the BES Bulletin. Oxford University Press kindly donates £40 book tokens to each category winner and runner up entry who does not receive the overall or overall runner up prize or the student prize.

A full list of winners and low-res images are available on the BES site. Any use of low-res images must be credited as copyright of the photographer.

1st October 2010