Prize Winners 2016

Last week the BES announced the winners of our annual prizes for the best paper by an early career researcher in each of our journals. For Journal of Ecology, Martina Treurnicht has been awarded the Harper Prize and Joshua Daskin and Kris Kramer-Walter were both recognised for highly commended papers. You can view all the papers in our special Early Career Researcher Awards virtual issue.

Here’s what the winners had to say about their prizes;


Winner of the Harper Prize: Martina Treurnicht (Stellenbosch University, South Africa)

Environmental drivers of demographic variation across the global geographical range of 26 plant species

2016-Harper-Prize-200x200In our paper, we directly link key demographic rates (within the life cycle of the study species) with several environmental factors and population density. This was done across the geographical distributions of 26 plant species, with fire-dependent syndromes, in the Cape Floristic Region (CFR), a global biodiversity hotspot of conservation priority.

For me, the award draws attention to the uniqueness of biodiversity hotspots and the specialised ecological patterns of mega-diverse regions that are often overlooked and not fully understood. It was hard work with so many kilometres to cover across the geographical ranges of the study species. The award testifies to the challenge of spending many months collecting the demographic data in the field.

I would like to thank the many researchers and conservationists from the CFR, the region where I grew up and spent most of my time. Many fellow Fynbossers played a very important role in my research and agreed to put their data to the test. A sincere ‘thank you’ for being open-minded and for sharing your data, research experience and expertise! It was a real pleasure to network with this community of ecologists.


Highly commended: Joshua Daskin (Princeton University, USA)

Ecological legacies of civil war: 35-year increase in savanna tree cover following wholesale large-mammal declines

It is a pleasure to have my work honoured by the British Ecological Society. As I conclude my dissertation research on the incidence and impacts of war-driven mammal declines, the recognition for this paper helps provide a springboard to new projects on conservation and armed conflict, plus the ecology of seasonally flooded ecosystems, including Gorongosa National Park, where the present work was focused. The project would not have been possible without the support of Gorongosa’s administration, conservation, and scientific services departments, and my co-authors Drs. Rob Pringle and Marc Stalmans. During the project, I was supported by a U.S. National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, and by the Greg Carr Foundation. Finally, I hope the commendation for this paper will encourage other scientists to consider beginning research in Mozambique. 


Highly commended: Kris Kramer-Walter (University of Waikato, New Zealand)

Root traits are multidimensional: specific root length is independent from root tissue density and the plant economic spectrum

Thank you for the recognition for my recent paper on the relationships between the root traits and soil fertility in New Zealand tree species. This paper developed from research I performed as part of my MSc thesis, and was an excellent first experience of writing up research for publication in a distinguished journal. I would like to thank my supervisor, Daniel Laughlin for his amazing support and guidance throughout the entire research and writing process. I also thank my co-authors Peter Bellingham and Sarah Richardson for their writing contributions, NZ plant functional trait, and soil fertility databases. Thanks also to Timothy Millar and Rob Smissen for their NZ tree phylogeny and writing contributions. Finally, thank you to my fellow students and the technical staff at the University of Waikato for their much appreciated assistance with the often messy process of working with roots.


Return to the blog soon to read full interviews with Martina, Josh and Kris.

Read the Virtual Issue bringing together the winning and highly commended papers from all the BES journals in 2016.

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