The New Phytologist Tansley Medal is awarded annually to a scientist who has made outstanding contributions to plant science in its broadest sense within 5 yr of receiving their PhD. The award was established in 2009 and has helped to highlight the careers of several successful scientists to date (Woodward & Hetherington, 2010, 2011; Dolan, 2012). This year's Tansley Medal winner is Robin Hopkins at the University of Texas, Austin (USA), who carried out her PhD with Mark Rausher at Duke University (North Carolina, USA; Box 1).
Robin has made very important contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms that underpin speciation. During speciation, reproductive isolation stops genomes of isolated populations mixing and can facilitate the evolution of local adaptations, which may become fixed in species. Traits that maintain differences between populations are said to reinforce the separation. The concept of reinforcement during sympatric speciation can be traced back to Wallace (1889) and since Dobzhansky (1940), identifying genetic mechanisms that underpin reinforcement has been a major research goal. Robin's research has focused on understanding the genetic mechanism underpinning reinforcement in Phlox and she discovered that regulatory mutations in genes controlling flower colour could be responsible for reinforcement (Hopkins & Rausher, 2011, 2012). Robin's minireview ‘Reinforcement in plants’, which is published in this issue of New Phytologist (pp. 1095–1103), highlights her contribution to this research.
This year's runner-up is Erik Verbruggen at the Free University of Berlin, Germany. Erik has skilfully embraced both theoretical and experimental approaches to understanding the evolutionary ecology of mycorrhiza. His minireview ‘Mycorrhizal fungal establishment in agricultural soils: factors determining inoculation success’, which is also published in this issue of New Phytologist (Verbruggen, pp. 1104–1109), focuses on the factors responsible for establishment of the beneficial soil fungi, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, that can enhance yield of a wide range of agricultural crops.
Congratulations to both Robin and Eric on their achievements – everyone at New Phytologist wishes them well in their future careers.