ESA Awards for 2009

2009 Murray F. Buell Award

Elizabeth Mary Wolkovich

Murray F. Buell had a long and distinguished record of service and accomplishment in the Ecological Society of America. Among other things, he ascribed great importance to the participation of students in Annual Meetings and to excellence in the presentation of papers. To honor his selfless dedication to the younger generation of ecologists, the Murray F. Buell Award for Excellence in Ecology is given to a student for the outstanding oral paper presented at the ESA Annual Meeting. The 2009 recipient is Elizabeth Mary Wolkovich for her presentation “Invasive annual grasses enhance native shrubs and their arthropod communities through abiotic soil effects.”

Figure 1.

Elizabeth's presentation was based on her doctoral research at Dartmouth College under the supervision of Douglas Bolger and Kathryn Cottingham. Her research demonstrated that invasive grass litter decreases soil temperature and increases soil moisture. These changes in ecosystem properties increase native shrub growth and lead to larger, more diverse arthropod communities.

Her work elegantly links ecosystem and community ecology. The Buell judges noted that Elizabeth's study on invasive grasses, native shrub growth, and arthropod communities was novel and contained significant findings. Elizabeth justified her study without presenting unnecessary or distracting information. Elizabeth received her B.A. from Wellesley College and will receive her Ph.D this fall.

2009 E. Lucy Braun Award

Emily Farrer

E. Lucy Braun, an eminent plant ecologist and one of the charter members of the Society, studied and mapped American forests and described them in her classic book The Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America. To honor her, the E. Lucy Braun Award for Excellence in Ecology is given to a student for the most outstanding poster presentation at the ESA Annual Meeting. The 2009 recipient is Emily Farrer for her poster entitled “The balance of positive and negative interactions in driving community dynamics.” This work is based on Emily's doctoral research at the University of Michigan, under the supervision of Deborah Goldberg of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Figure 2.

By fitting population dynamic models to spatio-temporal plant survey data, Emily tested whether facilitative or competitive interactions dominate in the stressful dry sand prairie ecosystem. The results suggested that most direct interactions among plants were competitive; facilitative interactions occurred in this system, but they were time lagged. These time-lagged interactions were likely due to leaf litter, which produces “islands of fertility,” and this suggests that lagged density dependence may be more widespread in plants than previously thought.

Emily's research was fascinating and effectively combined theoretical and empirical approaches in a sophisticated and comprehensive analysis. She summarized a great deal of complex material in an easy-to-read presentation.

2009 Eminent Ecologist Award

Steven Hubbell

Figure 3.

Steven Hubbell of the University of California, Los Angeles and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute will receive this year's Eminent Ecologist Award, given to a senior ecologist in recognition of an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit. Most widely known for his neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography, Hubbell's wide-ranging research career has investigated tropical biodiversity, sexual selection, and resource competition through the lens of theoretical ecology. He has written three books and more than 160 scientific papers, and his work has received more than 60 National Science Foundation grants. In 1990 he founded the National Council for Science and the Environment, a nonprofit organization intended to improve the scientific rigor of environmental decision-making, which now has 10,000 members.

2009 William Skinner Cooper Award

Jerry Jenkins, Glenn Motzkin, and Kirsten Ward

Figure 4.

Kirsten Ward

Jerry Jenkins of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and his coauthors Glenn Motzkin and Kirsten Ward, will receive this year's William Skinner Cooper Award for their paper, “Harvard Forest flora: an inventory, analysis and ecological history,” published in 2008 in the Harvard Forest paper series. The Cooper Award is given to honor an outstanding contribution to the fields of geobotany, physiographic ecology, plant succession, or the distribution of plants along environmental gradients. In the paper, the authors survey the plants of a central New England woodland, describing biological variation within species and the diversity among them. The contribution illustrates the many ecological changes that occurred in this typical woodland throughout the 20th century.

2009 George Mercer Award

Richard Lankau and Sharon Strauss

Figure 5.

This year's George Mercer Award is given to Richard Lankau of the University of Illinois and coauthor Sharon Strauss for their paper, “Mutual feedbacks maintain both genetic and species diversity in a plant community,” published in Science in 2007. The Mercer Award is given for an outstanding recently published ecological research paper by a young scientist. The authors show that changes in a physical trait of a plant can affect overall plant community structure, which in turn drives the evolution of the trait. The paper uses a combination of theory, experiment, and observation to bridge the fields of community ecology and quantitative genetics.

2009 Eugene P. Odum Education Award

Christine Flanagan

Figure 6.

Christine Flanagan of the U.S. Botanic Garden will receive this year's Eugene P. Odum award, which recognizes an ecologist for outstanding work in ecology education. Through teaching, outreach, and mentoring activities, recipients of this award have demonstrated their ability to relate basic ecological principles to human affairs. As public programs manager at the U.S. Botanic Garden, Flanagan develops programs that are viewed by nearly a million visitors each year, including many U.S. legislators. Her interdisciplinary NSF-funded traveling exhibit, titled sLowlife, draws from science, art, and literature to explain plant movements. Flanagan's other activities involve educating the public about genetically engineered plants and the importance of pollinator conservation.

2009 Sustainability Science Award

B. L. Turner and coauthors

Figure 7.

The recipients of the Sustainability Science Award are B.L. Turner of Arizona State University and his 25 coauthors on the Special Feature on Land Change Science, published in 2007 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The award recognizes research results that provide scientific foundations for sustainable management, link human and ecological systems, and advance sustainability science. In a synthesis paper and five original research papers, the special feature explores central factors that contribute to global change, including deforestation, land fragmentation, ecological regime shifts, and the loss of ecosystem services. Turner's synthesis lays out the advances and challenges in the field of land change science.