The Elton Prize is awarded annually for the best paper published in Journal of Animal Ecology by an Early Career Researcher. We’re delighted to announce that the 2019 winner is Uriah Daugaard, for his article ‘Warming can destabilize predator–prey interactions by shifting the functional response from Type III to Type II’.
A topical challenge in ecology is to understand how temperature affects the complex ways in which species interact, with important implications for community structure, dynamics and ultimately stability. For example, it is known that rising temperatures can strengthen predator-prey interactions by increasing the feeding rate of predators. But how warming influences the dependency of predator feeding rates on prey abundances (traditionally categorized into Type I, II and III functional responses) is poorly understood. This is important as the type of functional response has a strong effect on population and community stability.
In this paper, Uriah and colleagues provide a fine example of how a combination of experimentation and modelling, using a ciliate predator-prey study system, can bring to light an important mechanism by which warming affects stability. Uriah found that increasing temperature can destabilize predator-prey interactions by shifting the interaction from Type III (stabilizing) to Type II (destabilizing). This under-appreciated mechanism has a range of implications for numerous theoretical studies, which have hitherto ignored it, hence the results of the study are likely to make a significant contribution to the field.
In choosing a winner for this year’s Elton Prize, the Editors were also impressed how Uriah had designed, executed and mostly completed this paper as an undergraduate. His critical thinking and attention to detail including some smaller experiments to minimize measurement error is apparent throughout the paper and exemplifies the quality and standard of work we expect at the Journal of Animal Ecology.
Uriah Daugaard began the work that led to this publication during his Bachelor of Science studies in Biology at the University of Zurich. The project was concluded during his Master of Science studies in Biostatistics at the same university, from which Uriah graduated in March 2020. In May 2020 Uriah is starting his PhD studies in Ecology with Prof. Dr. Owen Petchey at the University of Zurich. For his doctorate studies, he will work on the Swiss National Science Foundation project Advancing the limits of ecological forecasting in changing environments using very long-term experimentation with micro-ecosystems. In this project, laboratory-based aquatic ecosystems composed by diverse bacteria, protists and metazoans will be used to thoroughly sample a wide range of variables – from individuals to the ecosystems as a whole – over thousands of generations and under multiple treatments. The general aim is to explore the limits of how forecastable the different variables are and to determine the biological mechanisms that lead to the differences in the observed forecast skill of these variables.
Find the winning paper as well as the shortlisted papers for the 2019 Elton Prize in this virtual issue.