Virtual Issue: BES Early Career Researcher Awards - winners and highly commended papers 2016

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 2016.

Demographic information is key for answering many of the questions evolutionary ecologists, population biologists, and scientists involved in management and conservation have to tackle. However, demographic information can be quite difficult to obtain, and results from detailed case studies that are scattered in a vast array of written accounts, including scientific papers and management reports. A tool for synthetizing the vast amount of accumulated demographic information was, until recently, lacking. Such a tool is sorely needed, especially nowadays when comparative analyses of life history traits have become a gold standard both for better understanding the diversity of life histories across the tree of life and for improving our knowledge about population dynamics of threatened (or exploited) species or populations. In this paper, Rob Salguero-Gomez and his co-authors fill this gap nicely by providing the missing tool in the form of an open animal matrix database (called COMADRE) that includes 1625 population projection matrices offering demographic information for 345 animal species. They show that, once properly standardized, demographic traits can be compiled across animal species with highly different life cycles and offer the necessary basis to support comparative demographic analyses at an unprecedentedly large scale of biological organization. The editors thought that the paper fills an important knowledge gap in animal ecology by providing the missing information to perform demographic analyses at both intra- and inter-specific levels. This paper makes an excellent contribution to Journal of Animal Ecology and it has already been spotted as a key paper by the scientific community by quickly becoming the most downloaded paper published in Journal of Animal Ecology in 2016. The editors were also impressed by Rob’s ability to coordinate so successfully this huge work that involved a large network of people.

Rob Salguero-Gómez obtained his PhD in Ecology & Evolution at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011, and he is currently the leader of the SalGo Team. His group's research explores the determinants of large natural variation found among the life history strategies of animals and plants worldwide, for which he uses a combination of field, experimental and large-data approaches. He is also the co-leader of the COMADRE Animal Matrix Database and the COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database and holds honorary fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (Germany), the University of Queensland (Australia), and Trinity College Dublin (Ireland). Rob will soon be joining the faculty of the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford, where he will continue to develop the COMADRE database, as well as exploring the role of trade-offs in the evolution of senescence, with a particular emphasis on demographic oddities, such as animals that demographically behave like plants (e.g. corals, sponges, etc.), and plants that behave like animals (sundews, venus traps, heterotrophic plants, etc.).

Winner of the Elton Prize: Rob Salguero-Gómez
COMADRE: a global data base of animal demography
Roberto Salguero-Gómez, Owen R. Jones, C. Ruth Archer, Christoph Bein, Hendrik de Buhr, Claudia Farack, Fränce Gottschalk, Alexander Hartmann, Anne Henning, Gabriel Hoppe, Gesa Römer, Tara Ruoff, Veronika Sommer, Julia Wille, Jakob Voigt, Stefan Zeh, Dirk Vieregg, Yvonne M. Buckley, Judy Che-Castaldo, David Hodgson, Alexander Scheuerlein, Hal Caswell, James W. Vaupel

Highly commended papers:
Evidence of the phenotypic expression of a lethal recessive allele under inbreeding in a wild population of conservation concern
Amanda E. Trask, Eric M. Bignal, Davy I. McCracken, Pat Monaghan, Stuart B. Piertney and Jane M. Reid

Piscivorous fish exhibit temperature-influenced binge feeding during an annual prey pulse 
Nathan B. Furey, Scott G. Hinch, Matthew G. Mesa and David A. Beauchamp 

Winner of the Harper Prize: Martina Treurnicht
Environmental drivers of demographic variation across the global geographical range of 26 plant species
Martina Treurnicht, Jörn Pagel, Karen J. Esler, AnneLise Schutte-Vlok, Henning Nottebrock, Tineke Kraaij, Anthony G. Rebelo, Frank M. Schurr

Highly commended papers:
Ecological legacies of civil war: 35-year increase in savanna tree cover following wholesale large-mammal declines
Joshua Daskin, Marc Stalmans, Robert M. Pringle

Root traits are multidimensional: specific root length is independent from root tissue density and the plant economic spectrum
Kris Kramer-Walter, Peter J. Bellingham, Timothy R. Millar, Rob D. Smissen, Sarah J. Richardson, Daniel C. Laughlin

Winner of the Robert May Prize: Gabriella R. M. Leighton
Just Google it: assessing the use of Google Images to describe geographical variation in visible traits of organisms
Gabriella R. M. Leighton, Pierre S. Hugo, Alexandre Roulin, Arjun Amar

Highly commended papers:
piecewiseSEM: Piecewise structural equation modelling in r for ecology, evolution, and systematics
Jonathan S. Lefcheck

Linking demography with drivers: climate and competition
Brittany J. Teller, Peter B. Adler, Collin B. Edwards, Giles Hooker, Stephen P. Ellner

Winner of the Haldane Prize: Pedro J. Bergamo
Flower colour and visitation rates of Costus arabicus support the ‘bee avoidance’ hypothesis for red-reflecting hummingbird-pollinated flowers
Pedro J. Bergamo, André R. Rech, Vinícius L. G. Brito, Marlies Sazima

Highly commended papers:
Faunal community consequence of interspecific bark trait dissimilarity in early-stage decomposing logs
Juan Zuo, Matty P. Berg, Roy Klein, Jasper Nusselder, Gert Neurink, Orsi Decker, Mariet M. Hefting, Ute Sass-Klaassen, Richard S. P. van Logtestijn, Leo Goudzwaard, Jurgen van Hal, Frank J. Sterck, Lourens Poorter, Johannes H. C. Cornelissen

Nutrient supply alters goldenrod's induced response to herbivory
Karin T. Burghardt

Winner of the Southwood Prize: Michael Becker
Sixty-year legacy of human impacts on a high Arctic ecosystem
Michael S. Becker, Wayne H. Pollard

Highly commended papers:
Creating fen initiation conditions: a new approach for peatland reclamation in the oil sands region of Alberta
Andrea Borkenhagen, David J. Cooper

Is it worthwhile scaring geese to alleviate damage to crops? – An experimental study
Caroline Ernberg Simonsen, Jesper Madsen, Ingunn M. Tombre, Jacob Nabe-Nielsen

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