Students capture environmental change in national photo contest

ARLINGTON, Va., June 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Hundreds of entries to a national environmental photo contest reveal not only signs of change across the United States, but also a growing awareness in students about complex life-environment connections.  

Young photographers in grades 5-8 captured images of change in their environment as part of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies' (IGES) annual Earth Day Photo & Essay Contest. Participants also submitted essays about the change they photographed, its causes and impacts. IGES staff judged entries based on relevance to the contest theme, uniqueness and appearance of the photo, as well as quality of the essay.

Ethan Han, a sixth-grader from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., won first place with an image capturing the beauty of a lone flower in a rocky beach: a symbol of the emerging spring. After describing the centuries-old process of mass wasting that shaped the landscape, Han writes in his essay that the flower "shows that while nature can be destructive, it also finds ways to make it possible for life to continue." This natural cycle is interrupted by human activity, he adds, calling for environmental responsibility "to help keep nature in balance so that our beaches can last forever."

Eighth-grader Siting Cindy Cao from Torrance, Calif., received second place with a unique image of a bacterial pool in Yellowstone National Park. Cao's essay comments on the otherworldly sight: "these colorful, grotesque looking masses are actually alive, they are bacteria!" Cao links these "primitive heat-loving microorganisms" living in extreme environments to research about the conditions for life: "It is important to understand these types of prokaryotic life because it may uncover many mysteries of how life originated on Earth, and gives new possibilities in the search of life elsewhere in the universe."

A more familiar-looking organism inspired third-place winner Sophia Botran, a seventh-grader from Coral Gables, Fl. A monarch butterfly caterpillar hangs from a branch in a "J formation," writes Botran, who grew up watching them in her backyard. She is concerned that human activity, particularly the use of pesticides and genetically modified crops, threatens the future of monarch butterflies, already decreased by 60% in the last year. "I do not want a future without them," she concludes.

"The contest gives us a unique opportunity to see environmental change from the students' perspective. It's fascinating to learn what captured their attention and why," said Theresa Schwerin, IGES vice president for education. 

The top three winners receive $150, $100, and $75 gift cards. Each of the top 10 entries receives a photo book featuring the winning entries.

To view the winning entries from this and previous years, please visit: www.strategies.org/EarthDayPhoto

About IGES

Located in Arlington, Va., IGES was established in 1994 and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization supported by public and private entities. IGES is a trusted leader in Earth and space science education, communication and outreach, and in fostering national and international cooperation in Earth observations.

SOURCE Institute for Global Environmental Strategies



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