The overall winner of the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2016, which was also winner of the coast and marine category, was an image taken as part of a Heriot-Watt research study into the marine biology found in sea caves in the remote Scottish islands of St Kilda and North Rona.
The image, 'Hitchhikers', of a Lion's Mane jellyfish, was taken by George Stoyle, one of two photographers accompanying the University team observing and recording local species to set a baseline for future environmental monitoring in this challenging and previously poorly studied marine. The project was commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage and also involved staff from National Museums Scotland.
Reflecting on his winning entry, George Stoyle said, “It was an opportune shot. We'd just come up from a survey dive and were making our safety stop at about five metres below the surface. I was swimming slowly back from the kelp forest towards the boat when I saw the jellyfish. They're not particularly unusual but this was uncommonly large specimen and appeared to have a number of juvenile fish sheltering between its tentacles, hence the title of the photo.
“I've been entering competitions for some years but this is my best win yet, and it's an honour to have been selected in a competition with such high quality entries.”
Dan Harries, the Heriot-Watt marine biologist who led the expedition said, “This was a challenging and very worthwhile expedition in a difficult but fascinating marine environment. It produced a wealth of recorded observations, specimens and images which will be invaluable in painting a picture of a rich, vibrant and healthy biological community.
“To have one of these images achieving recognition in this way is the icing on the cake, and our heartiest congratulations go to George.”