Some of the brightest minds in conservation science were recognised last night (Tuesday 20 June) as international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) hosted its prestigious annual awards ceremony at its ZSL London Zoo headquarters.
ZSL’s scientific awards, established in 1837, recognise outstanding contributions to zoological research and conservation, rewarding individuals whose pioneering work helps us better understand and conserve animals and their habitats worldwide.
This year’s awards celebrated a diverse line-up of world class science, from a study of the mechanisms caterpillars use to attach themselves to plants, to the recognition of a distinguished career running international conservation partnerships designed to save the planet’s amphibians.
The Frink Award, ZSL’s highest award for zoologists, was this year presented to Professor Sarah Cleaveland from the University of Glasgow, whose major contributions to the study of infectious disease in wild ecosystems have led directly to reducing human deaths. Her work on rabies in northern Tanzania led to the creation of a rabies vaccination programme for domestic dogs in the Serengeti, which has not only protected humans but also local wildlife species such as the Endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus).
The ZSL Silver Medal, awarded for contributions to the understanding and appreciation of science, was presented to palaeontologist, natural historian, writer and television presenter Professor Richard Fortey for his seminal contributions to our understanding of the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ and the origin of animals and, in more recent years, to science communication and public engagement.
The evening also saw three notable winners of the highly-coveted ZSL Scientific Medal, which is awarded in recognition of 15 years of distinguished post-doctoral work in zoology.
Professor Ashleigh Griffin from the University of Oxford was recognised for her innovative research in the fields of both bacteriology and the social evolution of vertebrates, alongside her work promoting women in science. From the University of Edinburgh, Professor Sarah Reece was honoured for her internationally-recognised work on malaria parasites, and Dr Claire Spottiswoode from the University of Cambridge was recognised for her prolific work focusing on the co-evolutionary ‘arms race’ between brood-parasitic birds, such as cuckoos, and their host species.
This year’s Marsh Award for Marine and Freshwater Conservation went to Professor Richard Thompson from the University of Plymouth, for his significant research over the last decade into the impacts of plastic pollution in the oceans, which directly informed both the introduction of the UK’s five-pence plastic bag charge and more recent legislation on the use of microplastics in cosmetics.
The Stamford Raffles Award, named after ZSL’s founder and presented to an individual from outside the scientific community who has nevertheless made an exceptional contribution to zoology or conservation science, was this year presented posthumously to editor Malcolm Tait. A renowned figure in the world of wildlife publishing, having published his own books and worked across titles ranging from The Ecologist to ZSL’s own members’ magazine WildAbout, Malcolm’s contribution to the understanding and appreciation of zoology, before his unexpected death last year, was prolific.
ZSL Director General Ralph Armond said: “I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to all of this year’s winners. As an international conservation charity, ZSL strives to celebrate and encourage work that broadens our understanding of the natural world and helps us to conserve it.
“Our annual awards are a great opportunity to honour many of the most influential and innovative individuals in this field, who through their work are really living our values of working for wildlife worldwide.”
Full list of winners
Frink Award - awarded to a professional zoologist for substantial and original contributions to the advancement of the science
Scientific Medal – awarded for contributions made within 15 years of completing a PhD
Stamford Raffles Award – awarded for distinguished contributions to zoology by amateur zoologists or professional zoologists in recognition of work which is outside the scope of their professional activities
Silver Medal – awarded for contributions to the understanding and appreciation of zoology, including such activities as higher and public education in natural history and wildlife conservation
Marsh Award for Conservation Biology - awarded for contributions of fundamental science and its application to the conservation of animal species and habitats
Marsh Award for Marine and Freshwater Conservation - awarded for contributions of fundamental science and its application to conservation in marine and/or freshwater ecosystems
ZSL/Clarivate Analytics Award for Communicating Zoology
ZSL Charles Darwin Award and Marsh Prize – awarded for best undergraduate project
ZSL Thomas Henry Huxley Award and Marsh Prize – awarded for best PhD thesis
ZSL Medal – awarded to a member of ZSL staff for outstanding achievement in the service of ZSL