25.8.16 | Tom Vierus, a master’s student at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) in Bremen, has won the German Prize for Science Photography in the category Photo Reportage. He succeeded in impressing the jury with a photo series about his research on young sharks in Fiji. The prize is advertised annually by the renowned magazine Bild der Wissenschaft.

Vierus lived for seven months on the island of Viti Levu, part of the time in the house of the village chief, who supported him in his research. Together with local fishermen and equipped with nets and longlines, Vierus went in the boat into the mangrove-lined delta of the Ba River night after night to catch young sharks, attach transmitters to them and take tiny tissue samples for DNA analysis before he released the sharks into the water again. The transmitters enabled him to identify each recaptured animal beyond any doubt.

“We suspect that the mouth of the Ba River is an important nursery for sharks, who at a young age seek protection against large predator fishes,” said Vierus. “In addition to the endangered blacktip shark we also found two endangered hammerhead species.” With his research findings he would like to address the protection gap of this coastal area, because an Australian company is planning to mine the mineral magnetite in the river, which could strongly upset the balance of the ecosystem.

Vierus has documented his encounters with sharks and his research in photo series, which show his eye for unusual perspectives. “Sharks fascinate me,” the amateur photographer said. “They are perfectly adapted predators, bursting with muscle power, yet they are very elegant animals. Sharks have existed for approximately 400 million years, far longer than the first dinosaurs, and they play an important role in the ocean, because they particularly eat sick and weak animals.” On his website www.livingdreams.tv Vierus has posted additional, very impressive shark photos that testify to his great admiration for these animals.

The much-travelled marine biologist graduated from secondary school in South Africa, where he gained his first experience in photography. After diver training in Bali and Egypt as well as an internship in Florida, he began work on his master’s thesis in Fiji, which was supervised by the ZMT. He easily adapts to foreign cultures. “With my boat crew I not only shared many hours on the water under a fantastic starry sky, we also lived together in their fishing village. So I got the unique opportunity to delve deeply into the culture of the Fijians,” Vierus said.

The prizewinners will receive their awards on 19 November 2016 in a ceremony in the Bremen House of Science. The prize money amounting to 5,000 euros is already planned: Tom Vierus intends to spend it on new camera equipment.

More information on the prizewinning photos of Tom Vierus: http://fotopreis.tpk6.de/html/preistraeger2016/vierus.html