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The Southwood Prize is awarded annually for the best paper in Journal of Applied Ecology by a young author. For the 2010 publication year, the editors are pleased to award this prize to Stephanie O’Donnell for her co-paper with Jonathan Webb and Richard Shine ‘Conditioned taste aversion enhances the survival of an endangered predator imperilled by a toxic invader’ (Journal of Applied Ecology, Volume 47, pp. 558–565).

The post-colonization history of Australia has been one of repeated extinctions due, in large part, to the fact that imported non-indigenous species seem to have a disproportionately large impact on the native biota. Currently, cane toads Bufo marinus are spreading rapidly across Australia and, due to their toxicity, have been the cause of a multitude of population declines in predators. O’Donnell and co-authors use conditioned taste aversion (CTA) as a tool to make predators wary of cane toads. In a clever experiment, the researchers laced dead toads with a nausea-inducing chemical and fed them to a subset of male northern quolls Dasyurus hallucatus– a predator rapidly declining in the presence of the toads. Upon release, toad-averse quolls had much higher survival than toad-naive ones. This research shows that in situations where stopping an invasion is impossible, management activities can focus instead on altering the behaviour of native animals, thus reducing the immediate risk of extinction.

During her 2 years in the Shine laboratory, Stephanie was based in northern Australia where she worked closely with a captive breeding programme for the endangered northern quoll. Her work with captive-bred animals was focused on refining the CTA technique for training quolls to avoid toads as prey, with the ultimate aim of producing a bait for training wild populations of quolls. Stephanie was also involved with the longer-term monitoring of released ‘toad smart’ quolls into areas of Kakadu National Park. This work has produced some exciting results. Most encouragingly, some toad-trained female quolls have survived for 12 months in the field, and have successfully raised litters of young. This ongoing collaborative project involves a team from the University of Sydney, the Territory Wildlife Park and Kakadu National Park, and is funded by the Australian Research Council.

After completing her honours and research assistant role with the Shine lab., Stephanie joined an environmental consultancy specializing in the forest carbon sector. She works on projects to prevent the logging of native forests, thereby avoiding significant carbon emissions from deforestation. These projects also yield immense benefits for conserving biodiversity, maintaining ecosystem services and both generating and diversifying income for local communities that traditionally depend on timber harvests. Stephanie is particularly responsible for carbon modelling and vegetation stratification, although she has the opportunity to contribute to each stage of a project’s development. She is thoroughly enjoying working in such a dynamic and cutting edge field, particularly the fact that the environmental benefits of these projects are immediately evident.

Stephanie is a worthy recipient of the Southwood Prize for 2010 and we wish her every success in her future career.

The Journal of Applied Ecology published many excellent papers by young authors in 2010. In particular, we commend the following three runners-up for the 2010 Southwood Prize.

Fitsum Abadi for his co-paper ‘Estimation of immigration rate using integrated population models’ by Abadi, F., Gimenez, O., Ullrich, B., Arlettaz, R. & Schaub, M. (2010) Journal of Applied Ecology, 47, 393–400.

Jin-tian Li for his co-paper ‘Cadmium pollution triggers a positive biodiversity–productivity relationship: evidence from a laboratory microcosm experiment’ by Li, J.-T., Duan, H.-N., Li, S.-P., Kuang, J.-L., Zeng, Y. & Shu, W.-S. (2010) Journal of Applied Ecology, 47, 890–898

Robert Tropek for his co-paper ‘Spontaneous succession in limestone quarries as an effective restoration tool for endangered arthropods and plants’ by Tropek, R., Kadlec, T., Karesova, P., Spitzer, L., Kocarek, P., Malenovsky, I., Banar, P., Tuf, I. H., Hejda, M. & Konvicka, M. (2010) Journal of Applied Ecology, 47, 139–147.