Field tested: NERC PhDs explain their work

10 December 2015

An article about the challenges of undertaking geology in Greece and a photograph of a snow-covered hut from the NERC iSTAR programme in Antarctica are this year's winners of NERC's short article writing and student photography competitions.

David Roberts, from the NERC Studentships & Training Awards Group, announced the winners at the Environment YES finale event in London this afternoon. The winners were picked from over 100 articles and photographs.

David Roberts said:

"This competition was held in celebration of NERC's 50th anniversary. Our aim was to encourage the next generation of NERC scientists to write about and capture what most excites them about their future career in the environmental sciences. We were keen that the competition recognised effective and inspiring science communication by NERC students."

NERC asked entrants to write a 300 to 400-word article on the topic of 'Great PhD, Great future' and/or to submit a photograph that encapsulated their favourite aspects of their PhD and the best experiences they have had doing their research.

The winner of the article writing prize, Sam Brooke, is a PhD student at Imperial College London. Their article 'Field tested' described Sam's experiences of articulating the motives and aims of his research to a Greek woman who spoke no English.

The winner of the photography prize, Damon Davies, a student at the University of Edinburgh, took his winning picture while working in Antarctica.

Antarctic hut

The winning photograph of an Antarctic hut. Copyright Damon Davies.

Professor Iain Gillespie said:

"We were delighted by the quality of the articles and photos we received. All of the students demonstrated great passion for their research and environmental science."

The winners received £500, which will be added to their Research Training Support Grant (RTSG). Second and third places received £250 and £100 respectively. The RTSG funding can be used to support activities such as conference attendance and additional training.

Prowling fox

The second place photograph of a prowling fox. Copyright Jonathan Lewis.

The judges for the competition were: NERC's director of science & innovation, Professor Iain Gillespie; Laura Hepburn, the winner of NERC's 2013's article writing competition; NERC's digital communications officer, Karen Christian; and Dr Natalie Starkey, BBC women's expert and STEMNET ambassador.

Penguin colony

The third place photograph of a penguin colony. Copyright Jennifer Brown.

Further information

Karen Christian
NERC media office
01793 411568


1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate 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 is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). This year marks NERC's 50th anniversary.

2. The full list of winners:

Article competition

  • 1st place: Sam Brooke
  • 2nd place: Elizabeth Dingle
  • 3rd place: Nigel Taylor

Photography competition

  • 1st place: Damon Davies
  • 2nd place: Jonathan Lewis
  • 3rd place: Jennifer Brown

3. Environment YES is organised jointly by NERC and the University of Nottingham's Haydn Green Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (HGI).