UWE Bristol science lecturer wins national photography competition

Issue date: 18 December 2012


UWE students using a seine net to sample juvenile flatfish in Daymer bay. Credit - Dr David Bird

Dr David Bird, a biology lecturer at UWE Bristol, is the Overall Winner and winner of the 'Ecology in Action' category of the 2012 British Ecological Society photographic competition.

His image of UWE Bristol students using a seine net to sample juvenile flatfish in Daymer Bay, Cornwall, captures beautifully the natural elements of the scene and the sensitive way in which the students are working.

The students, who are studying marine and estuarine ecology, identify the different species they catch, that include flounder, plaice, sole and brill. These young fish use the bay as a nursery area and by measuring the size of each specimen, students learn how this information can be used to study the population biology and conservation of these commercially exploited species.

David, a principal lecturer in Environmental Biology, is a keen photographer and values the way photography helps him to further engage with the environments he is passionate about.

David says, “I have always been fascinated with the natural world and this led me to a career in fish biology and an enthusiasm for photography. These two interests have proved complementary and I have been able to use my photographs for teaching and research. Using images in lectures keeps students interested and helps avoids having to use large amounts of text and give long verbal explanations. My research has involved work on fish in the Severn Estuary and in Indonesia where photography has been invaluable for recording study sites and specimens that can be then used for research talks and in scientific publications.

“As a scientist, I enjoy fiddling with all the buttons on digital cameras, they are amazing machines. More importantly, photography has enabled me to develop my creativity and taught me see the world differently. One of my heroes, Henri Cartier-Bresson, is the photographer who coined the phrase 'The decisive moment' (and I knew at the time I took this picture I had captured the image I wanted). A few seconds later and the symmetry of the composition had gone. I hope this image will encourage more scientists to use their cameras to explore their creative side.

“Although good photographs have little to do with equipment, for the technically minded the image was taken using a Nikon D3 and 24-70mm lens set at 24mm, f19 and 1/45 sec through a polarizing filter.”

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