Winners announced: Sidnie Manton Award 2022

Celebrating the best Review or Long-term Studies in Animal Ecology paper by an early career researcher, the Journal of Animal Ecology Editors are pleased to announce the winners of the third (2022) Sidnie Manton Award as Diego Ellis Soto and Kristy M. Ferraro.
Diego and Kristy’s winning paper, A methodological roadmap to quantify animal-vectored spatial ecosystem subsidies addresses the important realisation that animals can exert strong influences on ecosystems, and connect them, via the deposition of subsidies.

Couched in meta-ecosystem theory, the paper outlines a roadmap illustrating how future empirical studies could integrate data from spatial trophic structure, habitat structure, resource selection, and animal and resource movement. Importantly, it also highlights two case studies that illustrate the power of the approach.

The Journal of Animal Ecology Editors see the work of these early career ecologists and their colleagues as an important guide for future research on how animals influence the structure and dynamics of ecosystems. 

Get to know the winners and the story behind their research in our Q&A below.

If you’re an early career researcher with an idea for a Review or Long-term Studies in Animal Ecology paper, submit a proposal now. You could be in line for the next Sidnie Manton Award!
Winner Q&A: Diego Ellis Soto and Kristy M. Ferraro

Congratulations on your award! Can you share a bit of background about yourselves and how you got into ecology?

Diego:  Coming from an itinerant family, I have been fortunate to experience and relish a variety of cultures and landscapes. As an aspiring undergraduate in environmental sciences, I had the opportunity to travel to the Galápagos. Exploring the volcanic landscape that harbors lethargic giant tortoises, flightless cormorants and Darwin finches became a life-changing experience that fueled my desire and passion to become an ecologist and naturalist. I have always been on the move, which led to my passion for travel and desire to learn how animals do it across the world – otherwise known as movement ecology – and how they affect and interact with ecosystems.

Kristy: I’ve always been interested in the ways animals matter; from their roles in ecosystems to how humans think about and interact with them. This passion led me to ecology, and specifically to zoogeochemistry. Now I get to study fascinating animals and explore the intricate relationship they have with the world around them. I also believe that, as we learn more about ecosystems and animals, we begin to appreciate their complexity. And when we view something as complex, we’re more likely to treat it with respect.

What can you tell us about your winning Review article, A methodological roadmap to quantify animal-vectored spatial ecosystem subsidies?

Animals are always on the move and, through what they eat, where they die, and where they urinate and defecate, they move nutrients with them. Only recently has the role of larger animals in nutrient cycles been recognised as significant. This is especially relevant under climate change, as rewilding certain areas with animals could be a nature-based solution to offset carbon emissions.

The challenge is understanding where, when, and how much, animals distribute nutrients across ecosystem. It relies on methods and concepts from a variety of scientific disciplines and there is a lot to consider.

To help guide ecologists, we developed a roadmap, demonstrating how to integrate the necessary disciplines of animal ecology, ecosystem ecology, remote sensing, and biogeochemistry, to conduct robust research to understand, quantify, and estimate animal contributions to nutrient cycles.

What did you enjoy most about conducting this research?

This paper was a great opportunity for us to dive into how to best quantify the ways in which animals move nutrients across ecosystems, also known as zoogeochemical research. As early career scientists, we are trying to take a critical and intentional approach to the study of animal-ecosystem interactions. Here we’ve made a roadmap for ourselves and others, paving the way for an integrative approach to this type of work.

This project also gave us the opportunity to work with a diverse team. Bridging together desperate fields, including ecosystem ecology, animal ecology, biogeochemistry, and remote sensing was extremely rewarding, and allowed us all to learn from each other. Despite tackling zoogeochemical research in a slightly different ways and across locations and species, it was fascinating to find certain commonalities in some of the tools we used, and limitations of others.

Have you continued this research and if so, where are you at now with it?

We have both begun implementing the roadmap ­­­­– on completely different ecosystems, contexts and species!

Diego: I am exploring the effects that Galapagos giant tortoises have on ecosystems. This ranges from understanding how giant tortoises migrate up and down volcanoes, to linking this voyage with the seed dispersal of endemic and introduced species into the Galápagos National Park; up to understanding how they may connect terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. I believe that giant tortoises can be seen as a combination of hippos and elephants in the Galápagos due to the ecosystem services they provide. After my PhD, I am interested in linking ecosystem services provided by animals to an entire community of species in a regional study site.

Kristy: I am working on several projects that look at how northern ungulates (caribou, elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer) are impacting ecosystem nutrient distribution, nitrogen cycling, and carbon storage. By combining field experiments with GPS data informed agent based models, I aim to first quantify the ways in which these mammals are impacting nutrient cycling and then model how these impacts are distributed at the landscape scale. This integrative approach directly applies the roadmap we propose in our paper, and sheds light on the way animals are moving vital nutrients around their home range.    

Read the winning paper, A methodological roadmap to quantify animal-vectored spatial ecosystem subsidies

Early career researchers: apply for the next Sidnie Manton Award
To be considered for the next Sidnie Manton Award, submit your proposal for a Review or a Long-term Studies in Animal Ecology paper by 17 February 2023.
Applications will be assessed by the journal Editors and successful applicants will be invited to submit a manuscript to Journal of Animal Ecology. Submitted manuscripts will then go through our usual peer review process and, of those published, an overall winner will be selected.

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