With their beady eyes peering through the murky harbour water, the squid swim in close formation towards the camera – creating an eerie, prize-winning image.

A Visit from the Squid, by Melanie Sun, a PhD student in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Studies, has won the Science on the Job category of the 2013 UNSW Science and Engineering Photo Competition.

Some of the equipment for Melanie’s research on how chemical contaminants affect microbes living in the sediments of Sydney Harbour is visible in the picture.

“We were thrilled to welcome this very curious school of squid to an experiment we have been conducting at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science,” she says.

“The photo transports me back down into the world of the squid, where it is clear how aspects of my life will directly affect theirs. Whether it be saying no to plastic bags or making environmentally friendly purchases, small changes in our lives will help ensure a healthy environment for tomorrow.”

A Finger and a Fossil, by Dr Ian Lavering, a UNSW Science alumnus, won the Science Education category.

The photograph captures the fossilised outer shell and interior skeletal elements of a filter-feeding marine animal - a brachiopod from the Ingelarella genus - that lived more than 250 million years ago.

The fossil is preserved in the Wandrawandian Siltstone on the southern side of Ulladulla Harbour, on the NSW south coast.

“It is the only specimen which shows the interior skeletal elements of a fossil brachiopod that I have seen in more than 40 years of looking at them,” says Ian, a volunteer with the Ulladulla Harbour fossils walks program and a former Adjunct Professor with the UNSW Faculty of Engineering.

Rebecca Neumann’s photograph, Washing the Sediment Grab Sample, was taken when she was a guest researcher on board an icebreaker in the Bering Sea off Alaska.

The winner of the Women in Science category, it reveals the harsh conditions the scientists faced as they studied the clams and other organisms living in the muddy ocean floor under the ice. Fresh sediment samples had to be washed in a sieve over the side of the vessel with a hose.

“The suits and gloves protected us from the freezing weather conditions but to stop the water from freezing in the hose pipes was a big challenge,” says Rebecca, a PhD student in the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences who is now studying kelp.

“I had never been in the ice before and I was amazed by all the different ice formations and the diverse wildlife. Most spectacular for me were probably the huge flocks of passing eider ducks darkening the sky all of a sudden and the beautiful ribbon seals and walruses with their giant tusks that continuously had to keep their breathing holes in the ice open.’

All the competition winners and runners up can be seen here.

Media contact: Deborah Smith: 9385 7307, 0478 492 060, deborah.smith@unsw.edu.au