ASHEBORO, N.C.-Tom Gillespie, a photographer and journalist at the North Carolina Zoo, has recently been announced as one of the 10 winners in the 2009 USA Today "Picture America" national photo contest.
The contest was co-sponsored by USA Today and the U.S. Travel Association, whose Discover America campaign is aimed at attracting foreign visitors to the United States. The 10 finalists' photos will appear on, the first official website to promote tourism in the United States, and on USA and will soon appear on Websites.

The "Picture America" contest invited readers to submit images of America that captured the essence of the country and best represented it for international travelers.

Gillespie's photo and the other nine finalists will be used as part of a new Discover America marketing campaign to promote American travel destinations abroad.
Another of Gillespie's photos was a finalist in Smithsonian Magazine's 5th Annual International Photo Contest in 2008 and was displayed at the Smithsonian castle in Washington, D.C.

From photos sent in from across the country, USA Today readers were asked to pick their favorite 500 photos out of all the entries. Then three judges picked their 10 finalists from those 500. Judges included Mick Cochran, director of photography for USA Today; David Griffin, director of photography for National Geographic magazine; and Bob Krist, three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers "Travel Photographer of the Year."

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment & Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary; Beverly Eaves Perdue, Governor.