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Penryn student Paul Hopwood's gruesome picture scoops top prize in NERC competition

By DaveCDM  |  Posted: December 04, 2013

Penryn student Paul Hopwood's gruesome picture scoops top prize in NERC competition
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A GRUESOME photograph of a pair of beetles feeding on an animal carcass in the Cornish countryside has won a national award for a Penryn student.

Paul Hopwood, a PhD student at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus at Penryn, was announced as the winner of NERC’s inaugural short article and photography competition at an awards ceremony in London yesterday.

Entries were judged on how eye-catching the imagery was and whether or not the photograph conveyed the applicants’ research, whilst the essays looked for the ability of applicants to communicate the excitement of their PhD research to a non-specialist audience.

The judges said that Paul’s image caused the viewer to do a double take as they realise the brightly coloured beetles aren’t walking on mud, but on a dead mouse that the female of the pair is tearing apart, while the male looks after their offspring.

Paul said: “I’m absolutely delighted to have won the competition. This wild male was attracted to a camera aimed at the mouse and the female flew in soon after he called her by releasing pheromones.

"It was particularly cool because in the Cornish woodland where I am working, for every one of this species that turns up we find about 1,000 other, more common, species. Each has an amazing ability to recognise the pheromones of its own species. They are pretty amazing animals.”

There was also success for Dominic Cram of the University of Exeter, who won third place in the essay section for his description of catching and tagging birds in the Kalahari.

Kirsty Grainger, Head of Skills and Careers at NERC, says: “We were delighted by the response to this inaugural competition. The diversity in the winning entries alone highlights the breadth of world-class research training NERC PhD funding supports.

"Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to all the judges and all those who submitted entries; the judges’ task was not an easy one.”

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