From December 2020 to March 2021, the ACUR Student Committee led by Molly Turnbull, the Digital Media Officer, ran the first ever ACUR Images of Research Competition. Our competition theme for this year was ‘Celebrating our natural and cultural landscapes’. Undergraduates were asked to submit a research image based on this theme in relation to their field and interests. The competition was open to all undergraduate student researchers, including honours students and recent graduates within the past twelve months.
We had a solid number of entries from a range of disciplines for our first year, which will hopefully only increase in future years. Many entries evoked insightful dialogue surrounding the people and places essential to research, especially during challenging times this year and last. Submissions came from across Australia, from the University of Queensland (Brisbane), Australian National University (Canberra) and La Trobe (Melbourne). A submission even came all the way from Anton de Kom universiteit of Suriname in South America
The Review Process
All submissions were blindly assessed by our large moderation team, which consisted of 12 reviewers from the University of Oxford, University of Canterbury, University of Queensland, Australian National University, Anton de Kom universiteit of Suriname, Monash University and Macquarie University. I express thanks to the following who reviewed submissions: Lachlan Deimel, Olivia Jessop, Max Kirkby, Melody Hoefdraad, Megan Faith, Foti Paradisis, Diana Kazakov, Sai Campbell, Toby Hardcastle, Selah Dimech, Bonnie Wu and Professor Eric Pawson.
Each reviewer assessed submissions based on five main criteria, which were:
- Image quality, composition and creativity
- Demonstrated knowledge of current thinking, research, policy and/or practice
- Stimulating interest and discussion
- Communicating the relevance/importance of the ideas presented
- Image relevance to respective research field and competition’s theme
It was very important reviewers considered the image description alongside the image, as descriptions should enhance and supplement the image submission.
Submissions were assessed using a rubric system based on the Australian academic grading system, where for each criteria they were assigned a 1-7 grade; with 7 reflecting a high distinction, 6 reflecting a distinction, 5 reflecting a credit, 4 reflecting a pass and 3-1 reflecting a marginal fail/fail.
After the closing date, the scores of each reviewer were added up and grade point averages were generated. The full list was then sorted from highest to lowest scores. This resulted in 50% of scores falling between a pass to distinction overall, with no overall failing grades. First and second places received high distinctions overall.
Prizewinning entries were published in Undergraduate Research News Australasia (URNA), Issue 19 – May 2021.
Molly Turnbull (ACUR Student Digital Media Officer; BA – Hons Archaeology UQ).
First Place: Eleanor (Nellie) Pease
$100 prize sponsored by the ACUR Executive Committee
Credentials: Honours in Palaeontology, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Queensland
Image description: I wrote this page of notes when I was in Taunton National Park, Queensland, helping with research on spotted bowerbirds. These amazing birds build elaborate grass “bowers” to attract a mate, decorating them with shiny and colourful treasures they find around the forest. These bowers are perfect little museums of the birds’ natural and cultural landscapes – you’ll see natural trinkets like shells, berries and bones mixed in with rubbish and detritus taken from nearby towns. The birds even learn from each other, developing bower fashions from year to year. I couldn’t help drawing this fascinating interplay of animal and human worlds!
Second Place: Abby Cavanagh
$30 prize sponsored by Biome
Credentials: Honours in Archaeology, School of Social Sciences, University of Queensland
Image description: ‘Discovering the landscapes around Wickham in the Pilbara WA’
Not only is the Pilbara characterised by its red earth and iron ore industry but the traditional landscapes and stories that have lived since some 30,000 years ago. The Ngarluma people of Ngarluma Country, where this photo was taken, believe the vast landscapes of the ocean, rivers systems and mountain ranges were created by beings that used a supernatural force or spirit (manggan). This photo overlooks a dendritic drainage pattern in the mudflats looking south towards Karratha
Third Place: Ellie Sweet
Credentials: Bachelor of Environment and Sustainability, Australian National University.
Image Description: This photo is from a series of photos I produced for an art course last semester. The work was inspired by feelings stemming from a 14-day period of mandatory quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. This photo illustrates a misguided connection with, and a longing for, the environment. It also represents a warped perspective of the environment due to societal norms and standardised work ethics. It is my observation of modern interactions with the environment. 2020 definitely taught me to celebrate the natural landscapes around me more often, something I’m sure many others can relate to.
Honourable mention: Charne Crous
Credentials: Bachelor of Science – Chemistry major, inorganic chemistry laboratory volunteer, University of Queensland
Image Description: This image was taken after attempting to grow long, needle-like crystals of a bis(acetylacetonato)copper(II) derivative. The size of these crystals were too small and weren’t single, so they weren’t of use for our purposes, but they sure looked cool! This purple moss looking formation wasn’t around for too long before attempting yet again at growing the desired crystal, this time with better good-luck rituals to help! I’ve learnt growing the right crystal is more of a dark art than an exact science.