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The photo shows ‘sea-sparkle’, which is bioluminescence produced by a bloom of the single-celled predatory dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans. Though the dinoflagellates prefer warm waters, blooms are triggered by an increase in nutrients that boost the abundance of the microscopic prey of the dinoflagellates. These events can also occur in the cooler months. The blooms can’t last forever, because they eventually run low on food supply. Winds and/or currents can then concentrate the starving cells and push them shoreward. They bioluminesce in response to disturbance, e.g. from waves lapping the shore.


This photograph was a finalist in Beaker Street’s annual Science Photography Prize. This highly-respected prize invites all Tasmanians to showcase the wonders of our extraordinary part of the world — which is teeming with science and scientists. Finalist images are displayed at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery during Beaker Street Festival each August, with great prizes on offer for Judges’ and People’s Choice winners.

The Beaker Street Science Photography Prize would not be possible without the support of Full Gamut, Tasmania’s premier fine art printers and long-time sponsor of this competition. Many thanks also go to Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, which donates a generous prize for the People’s Choice winner.