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Cardiff University ecologist snaps up two photography prizes

08 September 2010

Cardiff University’s Adam Seward has snapped up two out of the five categories in this year's British Ecological Society photographic competition.

Adam's winning photographs were taken on Fair Isle, Britain's most remote inhabited island.

His image of a puffin (Fratercula arctica) being released after having been colour ringed for population monitoring was voted the best entry in the Ecology in Action category by the panel of judges, while his photograph of wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) in a May snow shower won the Student category.

Adam Seward, Cardiff School of Biosciences said: "The pair of wheatears were within my study population on Fair Isle in 2010. They were being provided with supplementary food as part of an experiment on changing food availability, and so would approach very close. One day in May, there was a very short snow shower while I was topping up their feeder, and I took the chance to get a series of photos of the wheatears in the unusual conditions. I like the complementary poses of the birds, as well as the streaks of snow falling."

"I also took the puffin photo on Fair Isle in 2010. It was a bit of fun really, with the puffin looking quite comical emerging from the bird bag – although I’m sure the puffin wouldn’t see it that way. The puffins were being ringed for a long-running population monitoring project," he says.

Dr Rob Thomas, Adam’s PhD supervisor and a lecturer at Cardiff School of Biosciences, said: "Adam's PhD research involves following migrating wheatears from Greenland and Shetland where they breed, to Senegal where they spend the winter. Along the way, Adam loves to use his photographic skills to illustrate his research work. These prize-winning shots show his signature style; using soft-focus foregrounds and backgrounds to highlight the detail and beauty of the birds."

Adam’s research is funded by a Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Studentship from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The Studentship encourages students to enhance their training by spending between 3 to 18 months away from the academic environment.

During his field work Adam has followed the wheatear from Shetland and Greenland to Senegal, investigating how changes in food availability affect its breeding success, survival and migration strategies. After completing his thesis he wants to continue with research on the effects of environmental change on animal populations.

More on Adam's photography and research can be read at:


Notes to editors

For more information and high-res images, please contact

Becky Allen, Press Officer, British Ecological Society

Tel: 01223 570016



Catrin Palfrey

Public Relations

Cardiff University

Tel: 02920 870293


A full list of winners and low-res images are available at

Any use of low-res images must be credited as copyright of the photographer.

Adam’s prize was £100 plus £40-worth of book tokens.

Cardiff School of Biosciences

Cardiff School of Biosciences is one of the largest bioscience departments in the UK. It is known world-wide for work across a wide range of fields and includes two Nobel Prize winners (Professors Robert Huber and Sir Martin Evans) among its researchers. Research at the School is focused within six major areas: biodiversity, connective tissue biology, genetics, microbiology, molecular cell biology and neuroscience.

The School houses the Common Cold Centre, the world’s only centre dedicated to researching and testing new medicines for treatment of the symptoms of flu and the common cold. It also directs the newly-funded Arthritis Research Campaign and Cancer Research UK research centres.

Following the latest independent assessment of teaching quality, all courses at the School were rated as ‘excellent’, the highest rating attainable. Cardiff is renowned for its Biosciences Field Courses which rank among the best on offer at any British university. Recently the School has added to this capacity by opening a field centre in Sabah, Malaysia in conjunction with the Malaysian Wildlife Trust.

British Ecological Society

The British Ecological Society is a learned society, a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee. Established in 1913 by academics to promote and foster the study of ecology in its widest sense, the Society has 4,000 members in the UK and abroad. Further information is available at

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is the UK's main agency for funding and managing world-class research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. It coordinates some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on earth, and much more. NERC receives around £400 million a year from the government's science budget, which it uses to fund independent research and training in universities and its own research centres.