Every year, ZSL recognises outstanding achievement in zoology and conservation science through a programme of prestigious awards.
This year's winners have made a varied and remarkable contribution to science and conservation. Find out more about their achievements below.
ZSL Frink Award for Outstanding Contributions to Zoology
The Frink Award is ZSL’s premier scientific award, and this year it is presented to Professor Terry Burke, University of Sheffield. Terry’s pioneering work on the use of molecular tools to study individual variation and mating systems has had significant impact on molecular ecology and conservation genetics. His early research on DNA fingerprinting enabled behavioural ecologists to reliably describe mating behaviour in birds, for example, by showing that extra-pair paternities are a ubiquitous feature of socially monogamous bird mating systems. Terry further explored the use of single-locus markers and later developed and applied micro satellite markers to the study of life history, cooperative breeding and demography in numerous species.
A hallmark of Terry’s research is that he has been quick to recognise which new innovations and technologies are likely to move a field forward, which led to the expansion of his research into gene-mapping, high-throughput SNP genotyping and next-generation sequencing, especially to discover the genetic basis of avian plumage and behavioural polymorphisms. Terry’s influential research led to the establishment of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)-funded molecular genetics facility, which provides training and resources to researchers who otherwise would not have access to molecular tools and expertise. The facility has evolved since 1998 into NEOF (NERC Environmental Omics Facility), which provides genomics and bioinformatics, of which Terry is a director. The Sheffield node of the facility alone has trained over 250 visiting researchers working on their own projects to tackle a wide range of behavioural, ecological and evolutionary questions. We are delighted to present Terry will the ZSL Frink Medal, for both for the quality of his science, and for his outstanding contributions as a facilitator and mentor.
ZSL Prince Philip Award and Marsh Prize
The ZSL Prince Philip Award and Marsh Prize is awarded for the best A-Level or Higher project submitted by a school in the UK. This year’s award is presented to Anna Robson, Colchester County High School for Girls, for her project ‘The effect of willow as a dietary additive on the growth rate of Wiltshire horn lambs’. Anna investigated the effect of feeding willow Salix spp. as a dietary additive to the growth rate of Wiltshire Horn lambs over an eight-week period.
Current research into the benefits of willow suggest that it might act as a natural anthelmintic medicine and could therefore replace the role of artificial wormers in lambs, as well as correct common dietary mineral deficiencies, such as cobalt and zinc. Anna’s study is extremely well designed and presented, with a clear hypothesis, use of appropriate methodology and analyses, and her results are well described. Anna also demonstrated her extensive understanding of the topic, with a valuable discussion on priorities for further research. We are delighted to present Anna with the ZSL Prince Philip Award and Marsh Prize.
ZSL Charles Darwin Award and Marsh Prize
The ZSL Charles Darwin Award and Marsh Prize is awarded for the best undergraduate project submitted by a university in the UK. This year’s award is presented to John Stratford, University College London, for his project ‘The potential of signal detection theory in behavioural ecology’. John’s research showed a deep and complete understanding of two fields – signal detection theory and behavioural ecology. His project provided a unique quantitative and qualitative synthesis of the two fields, with primary analyses of data to evidence the findings.
As well as grasping complex analytical concepts, John advanced the methods by integrating classic signal detection theory analyses into a Generalized Linear Mixed Model (GLMM) framework, making it even more applicable to the types of data behavioural ecology experiments generate. John’s work is likely to make an important contribution to the field, with the potential to change methodological approaches to the way researchers analyse animal responses to cues in the field of behavioural ecology. It is a pleasure to acknowledge John’s achievement with the ZSL Charles Darwin Award and Marsh Prize.
ZSL Thomas Henry Huxley Award and Marsh Prize
The ZSL Thomas Henry Huxley Award and Marsh Prize is awarded for the best PhD thesis submitted by a university in the UK. This year’s award is presented to Dr Tim Lamont, University of Exeter, for his thesis ‘The Changing Song of the Sea: Soundscapes as indicators and drivers of ecosystem transition on tropical coral reefs’. Tim’s thesis addressed the idea that environmental change in coral reef communities is reflected in their soundscapes, which provide cues to larval fishes about where to settle, and so influence how reefs recover following coral bleaching events. Tim’s research uses field data from the Great Barrier Reef and Indonesia to show that coral bleaching depletes reef soundscapes; that these reduced soundscapes are in turn less attractive for settlement by the fish larvae needed to recolonise these habitats; that passive acoustic monitoring of reef soundscapes can monitor the success of reef restoration; that experimental playback of the soundscapes of healthy reefs can accelerate their recolonisation; and that this positive effect is different from that of restoring the structural complexity of reefs.
Tim has had two of his thesis chapters published in very high-profile journals. Between the chapters are drawings and poems by children and other members of the public in response to the many outreach activities that Tim carried out, highlighting the importance of community engagement in conservation. It is pleasure to present Tim with the ZSL Huxley Award and Marsh Prize.
ZSL Scientific Medal is awarded for outstanding contributions by an early career researcher. Awarded to:
Professor Maria Dornelas, University of St Andrews
Maria’s research focuses on quantifying biodiversity and understanding the processes that shape it. Her work extends from detailed assessments of the biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems, based on meticulous field work, to macroecological analyses using state-of-the-art methodologies to examine biodiversity change at the global level. Maria’s work is increasingly impactful, both in terms of shaping research in community ecology, and in providing new insights that inform the effective monitoring and protection of biodiversity at a time when the world’s ecosystems are under unprecedented pressure. Maria led a global analysis of temporal change in biodiversity, which showed that turnover in species composition, rather than species loss is the most evident change in the recent past.
Importantly, Maria has also shown that biodiversity change is faster on oceans than on land, that warming effects on biodiversity change are also more evident in marine ecosystems, and that forest loss is a catalyst for biodiversity change. Maria co-leads the biodiversity time-series database BioTIME, an open-access resource and the largest compilation of ecological assemblage temporal data. Her work is novel, high impact and policy relevant. It is our pleasure to award Maria with the ZSL Scientific Medal.
Professor Kayla King, University of Oxford
Kayla is an evolutionary ecologist studying the coevolution of interactions among species, with a focus on host-parasite interactions. Her research addresses fundamental questions in biology, such as the causes of rapid evolution and the factors that maintain high diversity in natural populations. This research is relevant in applied contexts, as parasites can cause devastating infectious diseases in humans, wildlife, and domesticated animals. Kayla has applied a wide variety of approaches in her research, including experimental evolution, genomics, theory and fieldwork, focusing on a diversity of host-parasite systems spanning terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems.
Her work has sparked a re-think of the ways in which hosts and parasites might interact over evolutionary time. In particular, she has made significant contributions to scientific understanding of the links between antagonistic coevolution and diversity, providing some of the most compelling experimental evidence in support of the Red Queen Hypothesis, where in the battle for resources species must continuously evolve just to keep up with their enemies, who themselves also evolve in response. Kayla has also shown that genetic diversity limits disease and fuels coevolution, and that a diversity of enemies can generate high speciation rates in biodiversity hotspots. We are delighted to recognise this outstanding work by presenting Kayla with the ZSL Scientific Medal.
Professor Elli Leadbeater, Royal Holloway University London
Elli has been at the forefront of using techniques from behavioural ecology and applying them to understand the challenges facing pollinators, the social insects‐ ants, bees and wasps. Her research questions target evolutionary and also proximate causation of behaviour: what cognitive processes are important in social behaviour, and when and how did they evolve? What are the adaptive benefits of being social? And she answers these questions in the context of key species under threat from pesticides and habitat degradation.
Elli’s insights into pollinator behaviour have direct relevance to the challenge of ensuring pollination success in both natural populations and in agriculture. Elli’s early research showed that bumblebees are capable of observational learning in a foraging context and that their stimulus choice is determined by what they learn from co-specifics. She then extended her analyses to copying and robbing behaviour, and later, focused on how selection shapes animal brains to promote social learning and on the role of cooperation between unrelated nest-mates for colony success. Her more recent work has addressed the question of how urban environments affect pollinator activities and survival, and how pesticides and other forms of environmental stress affect pollinators. It is our pleasure to present Ellie with the ZSL Scientific Medal.
ZSL Stamford Raffles Award
The ZSL Stamford Raffles Award is presented to an individual for outstanding contributions to zoology that are outside the scope of their professional activities. This year, the award is presented to Stuart Roberts. For more than three decades Stuart has been a catalyst, bringing together professional researcher and amateur entomologist communities to address key questions around the status and trends of UK and European bees. Without his dedication and passion for ensuring that field observations are used to advance our knowledge on the conservation status and population trends of bees, we would have a significantly poorer understanding than we do today. Stuart has been involved in a wide range of projects where he ensured professional researchers have benefitted from access to, and a deep understanding of, huge high-quality datasets. Preparation of the first European Red List for Bees would have been near impossible without his ability to mobilise the European bee taxonomy community to work together as a cohesive team. He has also worked very closely alongside other specialists within Great Britain to produce the third iteration of the GB Red List of wild bees. The European Red List of Bees has since driven policy actions at the European and Member State level.
Stuart has been the sole champion of establishing and maintaining the European bee traits database, which has involved nearly two decades of meticulous work extracting traits information for more than 2,000 bee species. This has created a world-leading database that has been used in at least 100 papers, reports and PhD studies, adding substantial value to our knowledge of the life histories, conservation status and ecological requirements of bees across a continent. It is our pleasure to award Stuart with the ZSL Stamford Raffles Award.
Marsh Award for Conservation Biology
The ZSL Marsh Award for Conservation Biology is awarded for fundamental science that has significant impact on conservation biology. This year’s winner is Professor Kate Jones, University College London. Kate is an exemplary interdisciplinary conservation scientist who combines high-impact academic research with real-world conservation action. Her science is wide-ranging and includes pure ecology and evolution, resulting in an impressive body of work on bat ecology. Kate is recognised as a leader in the field of citizen science, both actively engaging with the public in the collection of data and also publishing about the best approaches to designing and using such studies. Her methodological contributions to the science of biodiversity monitoring have influenced the use of acoustic monitoring in ecological studies.
Kate also has a longstanding interest in zoonotic disease and her publications in this area over the last two decades have influenced the development of the field of One Health. In her new role at UCL East Kate is developing a vision of a campus that promotes innovation, engages the public with nature, and which builds the capacity of early career researchers from around the world to research some of the world's most intractable challenges in an interdisciplinary environment. It is our pleasure to award Kate with the ZSL Marsh Award for Conservation Biology.
Marsh Award for Marine and Freshwater Conservation
The ZSL Marsh Award for Marine and Freshwater Conservation is awarded for fundamental research which has had significant impact on marine and freshwater conservation. This year’s award is presented to Professor Charles Tyler, University of Exeter. Professor Tyler is among the world’s leading authorities in aquatic ecotoxicology and has made significant and fundamental contributions to our understanding of a wide variety of different environmental challenges and their effect on the health, fecundity and viability of fish populations and other aquatic organisms. His work has a had a profound influence on the water industry and also on a range of policymakers and professionals associated with water quality evaluation, as well as ecotoxicology more broadly.
Charles is an inspirational leader in his field and his work has been cited continually and at an extraordinarily high level (he has more than 39,000 citations and an H index of 101). His work has appeared in the very best specialist journals within his field, and he has had a remarkable influence not only on other academic scientists around the world, but also on policy makers and industrial collaborators. His work has, for example, been instrumental in changes in water quality legislation and the administration of effluent standards across Europe. We are delighted to present Charles with this award in recognition of these outstanding achievements.
We are grateful to our sponsor, the Marsh Charitable Trust for generously supporting ZSL's awards programme.