A Northland scientist has bagged one of the top awards in a Niwa photography competition for a striking image combining a colourful marine creature and an invasive pest.
Crispin Middleton, who lives at Ngunguru and leads Niwa's specialist dive team, took the underwater photo of a nudibranch climbing the tube of a fanworm at Parua Bay, in Whangārei Harbour.
His image won the ''our work'' category of the contest, which is open to staff of the research agency Niwa nationwide.
The orange polka dots and pink antennae of the clown nudibranch are a stark contrast to the sinister-looking Mediterranean fanworm, an invasive pest that can smother shellfish beds and infest boat hulls and marine structures.
The invasive fanworm is established in Auckland and parts of Whangārei Harbour, but efforts are continuing to keep it out of harbours further north.
Nudibranchs are soft-bodied, often vividly coloured creatures related to molluscs but without a shell.
The word nudibranch comes from the Latin word for naked and the Greek for gills because, unlike most sea creatures, their gills are exposed.
Middleton's work takes him everywhere from the Kermadecs to Stewart Island and includes plenty of biosecurity work in Northland waters.
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Other outstanding images in this year's contest included a photo by marine ecologist Irene Middleton of a fish known as a triplefin hiding among jewel anemones on the wreck of the Waikato, an ex-navy frigate scuttled near Tutukaka in 2000.
The Middletons, who live at Ngunguru, are both accomplished divers, underwater photographers and scientists.
Alvin Setiawin, an aquaculture scientist at the Northland Marine Research Centre in Ruakākā, photographed a rifleman or titipounamu on the Routeburn Track.
The titipounamu, New Zealand's smallest bird, is rarely seen in Northland but plans are being hatched to reintroduce the species to the Ipipiri islands in the eastern Bay of Islands.
The people's choice winner was a moody Fiordland landscape captured by Christchurch-based freshwater ecologist Shannan Crow in the headwaters of the Eglinton River.
More than 400 images were entered this year.
A video showcasing the best images can be viewed at vimeo.com/niwanz/2021staffphotocomp.