The winners of the Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science competition have been presented with their awards at Edinburgh Zoo. Young artists and writers from across Scotland attended the event on 21st October, organised by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and hosted by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS). Children aged 8-18 were asked to paint, draw or write about 15 iconic Scottish species, ranging from Scottish wildcats and red deer to great crested newts. According to ARC's patron and TV presenter Chris Packham:

There are some very striking, imaginative and colourful artworks... and some tremendous essays describing these wonderful animals.

A selection of the winning and highly-commended painting and drawing entries:


The creative work done by the children will now be used to help illustrate a new book called "Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science: how DNA technology is being used to help save Scotland's wildlife". The book is being compiled by Dr Pete Minting of ARC.

Dr Pete Minting also runs ARC's Great Crested Newt Detectives project in Scotland, where volunteers collect water samples from ponds to test for great crested newt DNA. He said: "It's amazing what we can achieve today with the help of DNA technology. We often hear of DNA evidence being used to solve murders or find out more about our ancestors. But wildlife also benefits. If we discover a great crested newt site, it may be protected from development. If someone claims that the salmon in their freezer came from a salmon farm, DNA evidence may show they were actually caught in a river. If someone's dog bites a badger or a hare, the dog and its owner may be identified."

RZSS is working closely with ARC to help make the Amazing Animals, Brilliant Science project a success. Dr Gill Murray-Dickson is a research scientist in the RZSS WildGenes laboratory. She says “DNA technology is a powerful tool with huge potential for helping to manage rare and endangered species. Using DNA-based information to help conserve native species in particular is a hugely exciting, yet challenging, mission to be part of.” The RZSS WildGenes laboratory works on several projects in Scotland (and further afield) including genetic studies of endangered Scottish wildcats and European beavers. 

The finalists at Edinburgh Zoo, with competition organiser Pete Minting (back row, far left) of ARC and artist Cherith Harrison (far right), who gave an inspiring talk to the children.

The awards day was followed by an event aimed at showcasing the use of DNA technology in conservation management to a wider audience. Held at the same venue on Sunday 22nd October, it featured presentations by the RZSS, ARC and other speakers specialising in genetics and wildlife conservation.

The Amazing Animals Brilliant Science competition is part of ARC's Great Crested Newt Detectives project in Scotland, which started in April 2016 and runs until March 2018, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Scottish Natural Heritage, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and ARC.