Virtual Issue: BES Early Career Researcher Awards – winners and highly commended papers 2015



 Each year the BES awards a prize for the best paper, in each of its journals, by an author at the start of their research career. This Virtual Issue brings together the winning and highly commended papers selected by the editors from journal issues published in 2015.

Charles Elton once quipped that “Ecology consists of saying what everyone knows in language that nobody can understand.” Maybe that is true for much of ecology, but it is certainly not the case with the paper by Jonathan Pruitt and Andreas Modlmeier “Animal personality in a foundation species drives community divergence and collapse in the wild.” Does everyone know that spiders have personality? And the prose in Pruitt and Modlmeier’s paper is both clear and vigorous, so readers can definitely understand it. The editorial board was impressed by the creativity of Dr. Pruitt’s work, its rigor, and the conceptual ties it made among the sometimes disparate fields of behavioral ecology and community ecology. Indeed, this paper stood out among many excellent papers in JAE in 2015. Therefore, the editorial board is happy to award the 2015 Elton Prize to Dr. Jonathan Pruitt.

Pruitt and Modlmeier examined how personality in the spider Anelosimus studiosus influences a suite of other spider species over 7 years in the field. Either aspect of the study - examining the extended consequences of personality in A. studiosus or tracking spider community dynamics for 7 years - would be interesting enough. But what Pruitt and Modlmeier showed was that the spider communities associated with webs of docile A. studiosus individuals differed from those associated with webs occupied by aggressive A. studiosus individuals, at least initially. Numerous other studies, mostly in plants, have shown how variation among individuals can lead to cascading community- and ecosystem-level consequences, but much of that work has failed to examine the temporal dynamics of communities associated with particular phenotypes. Here, Pruitt and Modlmeier, because they tracked these communities for seven years, are able to examine early succession, convergence, and ultimately the collapse of spider communities. They conclude that it is possible to use the traits of these initial spider species to predict the rate and path of succession, divergence, convergence, and collapse among the rest of the spider community. In sum, these clever experiments and persistent sampling yield novel insights into how the behavior of individuals scales up to influence the dynamics of communities. We now know that such links are common in nature, but few studies have characterized the links so explicitly. This kind of ecology is the kind of ecology that more people should know about, and they will, because it’s written in a language they can understand.

Jonathan Pruitt performed his graduate studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville under the direction of Susan Riechert. He then conducted postdoctoral studies at the University of California, Davis with Andy Sih and Jay Stachowicz. He is presently an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at University of California, Santa Barbara.

The Pruitt Lab's research explores the ecological consequences of individual variation in behavior for individuals, populations, and communities. His lab uses a variety of invertebrate models, especially social spiders, to address these topics. More deeply, the research considers the role of individual variation in structuring patterns of task allocation within societies and how these patterns impact the long-term performance of groups in contrasting environments. In non-social systems, Pruitt and his lab consider how variation in behavior impacts species interactions within and across multiple trophic levels. These studies have been conducted in a variety of both terrestrial and marine systems.

Journal of Animal Ecology | Journal of Applied Ecology | Journal of Ecology | Methods in Ecology and Evolution | Functional Ecology

Winner of the Elton Prize:  Jonathan Pruitt 
Animal personality in a foundation species drives community divergence and collapse in the wild.
Jonathan N. Pruitt, Andreas P. Modlmeier

Highly commended papers:
Plant resistance reduces the strength of consumptive and non-consumptive effects of predators on aphids
Mônica F. Kersch-Becker, Jennifer S. Thaler

Unravelling the annual cycle in a migratory animal: breeding-season habitat loss drives population declines of monarch butterflies
D. T. Tyler Flockhart, Jean-Baptiste Pichancourt, D. Ryan Norris and Tara G. Martin


Winner of the Southwood Prize:  Dustin Ranglack
Competition on the range: science vs. perception in a bison–cattle conflict in the western USA
Dustin H. Ranglack, Susan Durham, Johan T. du Toit

Highly commended papers:
Land-use impacts on the quantity and configuration of ecosystem service provisioning in Massachusetts, USA
Meghan Blumstein, Jonathan R. Thompson

A basin-scale application of environmental DNA assessment for rare endemic species and closely related exotic species in rivers: a case study of giant salamanders in Japan
Sou Fukumoto, Atushi Ushimaru, Toshifumi Minamoto


Winner of the Harper Prize:  Yuuya Tachiki 
A spatially explicit model for flowering time in bamboos: long rhizomes drive the evolution of delayed flowering
Yuuya Tachiki, Akifumi Makita, Yoshihisa Suyama, Akiko Satake

Highly commended papers:
Impacts of geography, taxonomy and functional group on inorganic carbon use patterns in marine macrophytes
Courtney C. Stepien

Historically browsed jewelweed populations exhibit greater tolerance to deer herbivory than historically protected populations
Laura J. Martin, Anurag A. Agrawal, Clifford E. Kraft


Winner of the Robert May Prize:  Kim Calders
Nondestructive estimates of above-ground biomass using terrestrial laser scanning
Kim Calders, Glenn Newnham, Andrew Burt, Simon Murphy, Pasi Raumonen, Martin Herold, Darius Culvenor, Valerio Avitabile, Mathias Disney, John Armston, Mikko Kaasalainen

Highly commended papers:
The Delphi technique in ecology and biological conservation: applications and guidelines
Nibedita Mukherjee, Jean Hugé, William J. Sutherland, Jeffrey McNeill, Maarten Van Opstal, Farid Dahdouh-Guebas, Nico Koedam

Assessing the performance of a semi-automated acoustic monitoring system for primates
Stefanie Heinicke, Ammie K. Kalan, Oliver J.J. Wagner, Roger Mundry, Hanna Lukashevich, Hjalmar S. Kühl



Winner of the Haldane Prize: Brian Steidinger
Variability in potential to exploit different soil organic phosphorus compounds among tropical montane tree species
Brian S. Steidinger, Benjamin L. Turner, Adriana Corrales, James W. Dalling

Highly commended papers:
Higher establishment success in specialized parasitoids: support for the existence of trade-offs in the evolution of specialization
Silvia Rossinelli, Sven Bacher

Radial changes in wood specific gravity of tropical trees: inter- and intraspecific variation during secondary succession
Benjamin T. Plourde, Vanessa K. Boukili, Robin L. Chazdon


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