Media & events

ESA 'Ecology in Action' Photo Competition

'Ecology in Action' Photo Competition

2018 entries are now closed 
View the winning entries or  take a look at the submitted images via the online gallery

The 2019 Compeition will open on 1 March 2019

Prizes will be awarded in each category this year for first, second and third places, as well as an overall ‘Best Photo’ award, ‘Best Portfolio’ award, and Peoples’ Choice.

The winning photographs will be announced and displayed at the annual conference, as well as on ESA’s Facebook page, Instagram and website.

Prizes include: Best Overall Image $500; Best Portfolio $400 plus online exhibition opportunity; and Category Prizes (1st $250, 2nd $150 & 3rd $100, HC $50)

About the competition

The competition aims to highlight the diversity, beauty and interest of the biodiversity and ecosystems of Australia, and the role of ecologists in unravelling their mysteries. Images must either be taken in Australia or its territories, or illustrate the work that Australian ecologists are undertaking in other countries.

All entries must be submitted online as jpegs (for details please see the Conditions of Entry below). Photographs will be judged primarily on image quality, including photographic technique, composition and uniqueness, but the quality of the caption will also be taken into account.

Entry is limited to five (5) entries into each category per contestant. The judges will choose a winner, second and third place-getters in each category, and – where considered merited – may also award a number of Highly Commended awards.


There are four categories in the competition:

1. Out Standing in the Field: Ecologists in Action

Interesting portraits or images of ecologists doing field-work, or in the lab, office, lecture theatre or policy arena. Preference will be given to images that provide a good portrait or image of an ecologist and also convey what the person works on and/or an issue pertinent to their field. Each image must be accompanied by a short description (maximum 60 words) that describes the ecologist and their work.

An ecologist is defined as anyone undertaking ecological research or management (including conservation and restoration). Note that images and the accompanying descriptions that are not clearly focussed on, based on, or derived from the subject of ecology, its discoveries or practice will not be eligible.

2. Niches & Hollows: Adaptive Behaviour and Australian Biodiversity

This category calls for images of plants, animals, ecological communities, study sites, experiments, or any other subjects that illustrate principles, models, theories, projects, patterns, interactions or processes that highlight the study of behavioural ecology and the role adaptation plays in Australian biodiversity. Each image must be accompanied by a short description (maximum 60 words) that describes the subject and its relevance to ecology.

3. Beneath Southern Skies: Unique Australian Landscapes

This category calls for images of landscapes that present the unique diversity of environments that make up the Australian island continent and have shaped our Australian biota. Each image must be accompanied by a short description (maximum 60 words) that describes the landscape and its relevance to ecology.

4. A Student's Life in the Field: Celebrating Students in Ecology

Students are an integral part of ecological research. For many students, field work is the “fun” part of ecology – often being outdoors amongst the very things that inspired them to study the world around us, and finally a chance to do something of their own. But field work is more than that – it is scientific training on the go, helping to develop problem solving, crisis and project management skills, as well as our ecological understanding of the world. It is also full of unknown, and unpredictable events – from field work disasters to interactions and observations that inspire new knowledge or studies, or simply moments that make us love ecology. Every ecologist remembers the field work they did as a student, for better or worse!

As part of the 30thanniversary of the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment, which has a fundamental aim of supporting research in the field, this category aims to celebrate the field work and projects that students do – including the successes, failures, unexpected, and inspiring moments and memories that come with it. The subject matter of the photographs can be broad – the only requirement is that a student’s field work must be an integral part of the message conveyed by the photograph and caption. To this end, photographs do NOT have to be taken by a student, nor do they have to have a student in the actual photograph - though they are both permissible and encouraged. This category is open to both Holdsworth Wildlife Research Endowment recipients and non-recipients.


Best Overall Photo

This prize will be awarded to the photo judged the best in the competition over all, and will be chosen by the judges from amongst the three first-prize winning category images.

Best Portfolio

This award will be made to the photographer who submits the best five images to the competition, irrespective of the category in which they were entered (excluding remote camera images). The aim of this category is to recognise and reward entrants who submit images of a consistently high standard.

The winner of this category will receive a cash prize and will be offered the opportunity to have a feature exhibition of their work on the ESA website. This will consist of the images entered in the competition and a short biography of the photographer, and may also include up to five additional images of the photographers choice.

How to apply

Submit a photo here



  1. The competition is open to anyone of any age, except for the Executive of the ESA and people involved with the administration or judging of the competition. Membership of the ESA is not a condition of entry.
  2. Entries must be colour photographs uploaded online on the ESA website as high-quality jpegs. These should be 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 inches) at 300 dpi. The jpeg quality level should be set at maximum (12) to minimise loss of quality. The compressed file size must be less than 10MB (typically it will be about 6-7 MB, but varies depending on the content of the image). If square photographs are entered their dimensions should be 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 inches), while panoramic photographs should be 30 cm (12 inches) in their longest dimension.
  3. Each entry must be submitted via the online submission form on the ESA website and must include the following information:
    - entrant’s name and address
    - category being entered
    - a brief title of the image (<10 words)
    - a short description of the image (<60 words)
    - when and where it was taken
    - you must declare if the image was taken in captivity
  4. In the case of photographs of a recognisable person, it is the photographer’s responsibility to obtain the written consent of the person/s in the image for the photograph to be reproduced. Consent forms are available on the ESA website on the photo competition page and should be retained by the photographer (not sent with the entry).
  5. Entry is limited to three (3) images into each category per contestant. Entrants should not submit multiple images of the same subject.
  6. Images submitted without description, in the wrong format or received after the closing date will not be accepted.
  7. The entrant must be the copyright owner of all images entered.
  8. Points will be awarded primarily for image quality and relevance, e.g. technical quality, aesthetics, sharpness, correct exposure and composition of the image, but also for the interest and relevance of the subject matter and context; and the quality and relevance of the description.
  9. Images must not have been adjusted beyond a level that could be applied in conventional pre-digital photography. In other words, image adjustments should be limited to no more than levels, curves, colour, saturation, contrast, sharpening and minor cleaning. The integrity of the original subject must be retained, compositing or the creation of an image from more than one original exposure is not allowed with the exception of scenarios listed in Clause10.
  10. Stitched panoramas are allowed, as are focus-stacked images, so long as the exposures were taken at the exact same time and place and that this is specified in the caption.
  11. Judging will be by a panel selected by the ESA and the judges’ decision will be final. No correspondence regarding the judging will be entered into.
  12. Each category will have three Judges’ Awards (1st, 2nd and 3rd) and – at the judges’ discretion – a number of Highly Commended awards may also be made. If a category receives too few entries of a sufficient standard in the opinion of the judging panel, then fewer awards may be given.
  13. The competition will also have a People’s Choice Awards (1st, 2nd and 3rd). These will be the three most popular images as voted by delegates at ESA18 in Brisbane.  
  14. The winner of the overall prize will be offered a feature page of their work on the ESA website. This will be conditional on the photographer meeting nominated deadlines for supply and quality of images and a short (<100 word) biography to be posted. If the deadline is not met or renegotiated the opportunity will deem to be waived.
  15. The short-listed entries will be exhibited at the ESA annual conference, at which time the winning images will also be announced, and prizes awarded. If you are not present at the conference to accept your prize, then your prize will be posted to you within 4 weeks. Please make sure that you provide a full postal address and current email address when entering the competition.
  16. The results will be posted on the ESA website and Facebook site following the announcement of winners at the annual conference.
  17. An ecologist is defined as anyone undertaking ecological research or management (including conservation, restoration and environmental impact assessment). Note that images or descriptions of people undertaking research or management that is not clearly focussed on, based on, or derived from ecological knowledge or principles may not be eligible.
  18. Notwithstanding the rights conferred by entrants to the ESA in Clause 19 below, entrants retain copyright in all original images submitted.
  19. By submitting an entry, including the image and the caption, entrants agree to license and grant the Ecological Society of Australia a non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish and display all or part of their entry for promotion of the competition or the Society, without compensation, restriction on use, or liability. Entrants agree not to assert any moral rights in relation to such use and warrant that they have full authority to grant these rights.
  20. The photographer will be acknowledged when the ESA uses, reproduces, modifies, adapts, publishes or displays any images.
  21. Personal details collected on the entry form will only be used for the purposes of this competition and related promotion. Your private information will not be given to any individual or organisation other than the Ecological Society of Australia.
  22. Entry into this competition is deemed acceptance of these terms and conditions.
  23. The closing date for entries is (midnight) Saturday 13 October 2018 at 11.59pm.