Elton Prize Early Career Researcher Shortlist Announced

The Elton Prize is awarded each year for the best paper in the Journal of Animal Ecology written by an early career author at the start of their research career.

The overall winner is selected by the Senior Editors of the journal, and will be announced in the coming weeks. Watch this space! This year’s shortlisted candidates are announced below.

The shortlisted candidates are:

Santiago Agustín Parra, Interaction fidelity is less common than expected in plant-pollinator communities

Dylan Jones, Latitudinal gradient in species diversity provides high niche opportunities for a range-expanding phytophagous insect – Why not check out Dylan’s blog post?

Paulina Arancibia, Network topology and patch connectivity affect dynamics in experimental and model metapopulations – Why not check out Paulina’s blog post about her research.

Ana Payo-Payo, Modelling the responses of partially-migratory metapopulations to changing seasonal migration rates: from theory to data. 

Robert Semmler, Reef fishes weaken dietary preferences after coral mortality, altering resource overlap

Vinícius Caldart, Function of a multimodal signal: a multiple hypothesis test using a robot frog

Pablo Antiqueira Warming and top predator loss drive direct and indirect effects on multiple trophic groups within and across ecosystems

Mélanie Thierry Multiple parasitoid species enhance top-down control, but parasitoid performance is context dependent – why not check out Mélanie’s blog post about her research.

Congratulations to all of our shortlisted candidates! We have received a high volume of excellent applications – those selected above should be extremely proud of their work! Thank you to all authors who submitted an application for the award.

Sidnie Manton Award: submit your proposal now

Early career ecologist? If you have an idea for a Review or Long-term Studies in Animal Ecology paper, we invite you to submit a short abstract and be in with a chance of winning our next Sidnie Manton Award.

Proposals 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.

The British Ecological Society and Journal of Animal Ecology have long-championed the research of early career* ecologists and, through the Sidnie Manton Award, we aim to continue this tradition. Meet the most recent winners of the award, Diego Ellis Soto and Kristy M. Ferraro, here. Following on from their winning paper, Diego and Kristy also collated the Virtual Issue, Animal-vectored subsidies.

If you’d like some tips for writing Reviews or Long-term Studies, don’t miss our free-to-read Editorial, Time counts in Animal Ecology.

Submit your proposal for the Sidnie Manton Award here.

Deadline: 17 February 2023

The winning paper will feature prominently in the journal and the recipient of the award will receive £250, a 12-month membership of the British Ecological Society (BES) and free registration for the BES Annual Meeting if they choose to attend to present their current research.

*Early career is defined as less than five years post- Ph.D. or -D.Phil. experience according to the date of your graduation certificate. Reasonable exceptions will be considered (e.g. for parental leave or a substantial shift in research area).

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.

Elton Prize 2021: winner announced

We are delighted to announce Kate P. Maia as the 2021 winner of our Elton Prize early career researcher award for the article Interaction generalisation and demographic feedbacks drive the resilience of plant–insect networks to extinctions.
In this post, Kate shares her #StoryBehindThePaper.

The research

Ecological communities can be depicted as networks in which species are connected by interactions. These ecological networks have far-from-random structures, which may not only hide information about the natural history of the system represented but can also affect how resistant ecological communities are to different types of perturbations.

Using computer simulations to investigate how resistant plant-pollinator and plant-herbivore networks are to the loss of species, we sought to understand which properties of these systems affect their resistance.

We found that, because plant-pollinator interactions benefit both plants and insects – as opposed to herbivory, which only benefits insects – pollination networks undergo long and frequent co-extinction cascades and are less resistant than herbivory networks.

On the other hand, pollination networks benefit from containing species that have many interactions, as well as from their structure. This gives them interaction flexibility, allowing pollinators to rewire their interactions to new plants and hence escape co-extinction. Whereas the structure of herbivory networks limits the interaction flexibility of insect herbivores.

We have thus shown how, for two types of high-biodiversity plant-insect assemblages, their natural history and network structures contribute to their resilience to extinctions.

Kate’s experience

I very much enjoyed the coding challenge – since this was my first experience with this level of modelling – and designing the different scenarios for each of the questions.

One surprising discovery in this research was finding that rewiring can have a negative (even if small) effect on the robustness of antagonistic networks with theoretical structures. Because we didn’t find the same negative effect for herbivory networks, this suggests that the empiric structure of antagonistic systems could act as a buffer against co-extinction cascades. 

Read the winning paper and all of those shortlisted for the 2021 award (free for a limited time) in this Virtual Issue.

This work marked a milestone in Kate’s PhD thesis, which was awarded in January 2019 by the University of Bristol, UK. At the time of the manuscript’s submission, Kate was a second-year postdoc at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil and, even if working on different systems and approaches, has broadly continued with this research. She is currently looking for different structural patterns across networks of several interaction types and exploring how they influence the spread of effects across species.

Shortlist Announced for Elton Prize Early Career Researcher Award

Each year Journal of Animal Ecology awards the Elton Prize to the best Research Article in the journal by an early career researcher. Today we present the shortlisted papers for this year’s award, based on the 2021 (90th) volume of the journal.
The winner will be selected in the coming weeks so follow the blog and watch this space for future announcements!
This year’s shortlisted candidates are:

Cristina Botías, Multiple stressors interact to impair the performance of bumblebee Bombus terrestris colonies

Ellen Brandell, Group density, disease, and season shape territory size and overlap of social carnivores

Joseph Burant, Early warning indicators of population collapse in a seasonal environment

Félicie Dhellemmes, Personality-driven life history trade-offs differ in two subpopulations of free-ranging predators

Phoebe Edwards, A mechanism for population self-regulation: Social density suppresses GnRH expression and reduces reproductivity in voles

Emily Le Sage, Preparatory immunity: Seasonality of mucosal skin defences and Batrachochytrium infections in Southern leopard frogs

Tamika Lunn, Spatial dynamics of pathogen transmission in communally roosting species: Impacts of changing habitats on bat-virus dynamics

Kate Pereira Maia, Interaction generalisation and demographic feedbacks drive the resilience of plant–insect networks to extinctions

Allison M. Roth, Sexual selection and personality: Individual and group-level effects on mating behaviour in red junglefowl

2019 Elton Prize Winner: Uriah Daugaard

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’.

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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.