ZSL's Scientific Award Winners Announced
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 ZSL Frink Award is ZSL’s premier scientific award, and this year it is presented to Professor B. Rosemary Grant FRS FRSC, Princeton University. Rosemary Grant is a remarkable research scientist who, together with her husband Peter, has tracked the evolution of Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos islands since 1973. Their research combines ecology and behaviour with genetics and genomics to explore how natural selection results in evolutionary change when finch populations are subjected to severe droughts and shortage of food. With this approach Rosemary and Peter were able to describe how, within a dramatically changing natural environment, the beak shape and size of ground finches has evolved rapidly by natural selection. Although there have been attempts to show natural selection, Rosemary and Peter were the first to closely trace the evolution taking place in the field, and to study the ecological factors responsible for natural selection, the directions in which many traits evolve and the mechanisms that maintain the genetic variation necessary for evolutionary change. Rosemary and Peter’s research is one of the most enduring and insightful studies of evolution in the wild, with far-reaching influence on the study of evolution of other organisms. It is our pleasure to present Rosemary with the ZSL Frink Award.
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 Amy Tunstall, Tring School, for her project ‘The effect of partial reinforcement on the reaction times towards a stimulus following extinction relating to an operant behaviour in Mesocricetus auratus’. In this impressive study, Amy explored differences in the pattern of behavioural responses after the cessation of different schedules of positive reinforcement. Amy’s project was very well designed, had a clear hypothesis, and her analysis was appropriate and thorough. As well as an extremely well written and presented project, Amy showed that she had read extensively and has an excellent knowledge of the subject area. Amy also included a mature review of her study in which she developed her ideas for future research. We are delighted to present Amy with this award in recognition of her excellent project.
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 Benedetta Veneroni, University of Aberdeen, for her project ‘Changing perceptions in a changing environment: assessing local ecological knowledge and shifting baselines among fishing communities of the Italian northern Adriatic Sea’. In this outstanding study, Benedetta used both ecological and social survey techniques to explore the concept of shifting baseline syndrome, whereby fishermen, by virtue of never having had the experience of seeing the biodiversity their grandfathers had, had a skewed perception of what a healthy marine environment is meant to look like. The quality of the data collection and analysis is truly excellent, and the interpretation of the findings are highly relevant to current conservation needs. The project is of publishable quality in terms of academic standard, innovation, and usefulness of the findings. It is a pleasure to acknowledge Benedetta’s achievement with this award.
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 Benjamin Van Doren, University of Oxford, for his project ‘Flexibility in avian migration across scales’. Benjamin’s thesis is an exceptional piece of work, combining approaches across multiple spatial and temporal scales to understand flexibility in migration in birds. His work ranges from detailed studies of individual bird migratory tracks to analyses of continent-wide migratory flows of whole communities of billions of birds, and addresses changes in migratory behaviour on time scales ranging from hours to decades. Benjamin weaves together these analyses to present a novel picture of how flexibility enables birds to respond to environmental change across multiple scales. This is a truly remarkable thesis, with each chapter representing a substantial contribution to the field. The work has already led to multiple published papers of very high quality and the research will have a major impact on the study of migration in birds. It is a pleasure to present Benjamin with this award.
ZSL Scientific Medal is awarded for outstanding contributions by an early career researcher. Awarded to:
Professor Dan Nussey, University of Edinburgh
Dan Nussey has a strong international profile in the fields of evolutionary ecology, ageing and senescence, and the ecological immunology of wild populations. Dan uses individual-based studies of wild animals to test evolutionary explanations for variation in senescence, to understand how genes and early-life environmental conditions can predict patterns of physiological and demographic change in later adulthood. This ground-breaking research has significantly advanced our understanding of the mechanisms of senescence via the contributions of physiological, immunological and behavioural changes in late life. Dan has also explored variation in immune function in wild animals to demonstrate its importance for reproduction and survival. His analyses of immunological markers focus on immunological tests with functional applications, and this approach has allowed him to address fundamental questions about patterns of natural selection on immune function, the genetic basis of variation, and the role of immunology in predicting ageing. For this innovative and influential work, we are delighted to present Dan with the ZSL Scientific Medal.
Professor Emily Shepard, University of Swansea
Emily Shepard is an outstanding researcher in the movement ecology of wild animals. Her work focuses on how bird flight is affected by airflows, using both biologging technologies in the field, experimental work in wind tunnels, and theoretical models of air flows and flight mechanics. This novel research has involved the use of computational fluid dynamics to model airflows at local scale. In addition, Emily’s use of high-frequency tagging data has provided fascinating insights into the flight strategies of condors. This has involved using high-frequency sensors to quantify flight effort and flight strategy. Emily’s ground-breaking research has advanced our understanding of how birds exploit airflows to their advantage, and the environmental conditions that constrain them in terms of their movements, habitat use or energy expenditure. Emily is recognised as a global leader in this research area, and her contributions to the scientific literature simply cannot be missed. Many of her papers are already seen as classics, and bound to become timeless achievements in the realm of zoological scientific discoveries. We are delighted to present Emily the ZSL Scientific Medal.
Professor Chris Venditti, University of Reading
Chris Venditti is a highly productive scholar who combines state-of- the-art phylogenetic and statistical analyses, high-performance computing and modelling to test evolutionary narratives. Using this approach, Chris has explored interesting and important questions about evolutionary transitions in a wide range of study systems, including humans, dinosaurs and bacteria. Chris’ imaginative thinking and careful science has revealed novel insights into topics ranging from pterosaur flight efficiency to mammalian eye shape. In addition, Chris has an ability to make complex problems tractable with novel approaches, and he not only develops the new methods that the research community needs, but presents them in a manner that is accessible and provides the software and other platforms that enable others to implement them. With an outstanding publication record in the highest profile journals, Chris is influencing fundamental principles that will be taught for years to come. For his outstanding and impactful research, we are delighted to present Chris with the ZSL Scientific Medal.
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, it is awarded to Professor Rosie Woodroffe, Zoological Society of London. Rosie is an exceptional zoologist with wide-ranging interests in carnivore behaviour, conservation, human-wildlife conflicts and disease. Her work combines extremely impressive field studies and elegant analytical, statistical and modelling work to resolve contentious, complicated issues in the UK, East Africa and globally. As well as publishing world-leading science, Rosie is impressive in her ability to communicate and inform policy through the highest quality research. Rosie serves on numerous policy and scientific advisory boards including the Bovine TB partnership, a joint independent/government advisory group for Defra, the IUCN Canid Specialist Group and the IUCN Wildlife Health Specialist Group. Her translational work to support the best uptake and use of science to inform policy and practice is admirable. It is a pleasure to award Rosie with the 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 Steven Cooke, Carleton University. Steven is an applied aquatic ecologist who works in both freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems. He has made many contributions to fundamental and applied aquatic ecology and he has a remarkable 800+ peer reviewed publications. Steven is committed to sharing his work with the public and ensuring that the mission-oriented research he does is of relevance to end users, such as policy makers and conservation practitioners. Steven has been a pioneer in quantifying the consequences of recreational, commercial and aboriginal fishing practices on fish and fisheries. This work has led to a greater understanding of the function of aquatic ecosystems, especially how fish interact with their environment, and has also enhanced our ability to manage, restore and conserve aquatic ecosystems. We are delighted to present Steven with this award in recognition of these outstanding achievements.
ZSL Clarivate Award for Communicating Zoology
The Clarivate Award for Communicating Zoology is presented to an author or film maker for work that has impact on a wide audience. This year the award is presented to Dara McAnulty, for Diary of a Young Naturalist. In this remarkable debut Dara, an autistic teenager, describes a year of his life through diary entries. It’s a year of upheaval, as the family move home and Dara starts a new school. Dara makes sense of these and other challenges by framing them with detailed and beautiful observations of the natural world. Dara has an infectious passion for nature, and he clearly articulates how his feelings are interwoven with his connection to the natural world. Dara has an exquisite writing style that is vivid and evocative, and a joy to read. Importantly, Diary of a Young Naturalist is an invitation to us all to explore and pay attention to the nature around us, and to connect deeply to it, and in doing so, to find our own peace, reflection and solace. We are delighted to present Dara with the Clarivate Award.
We are grateful to our sponsors, the Marsh Charitable Trust and Clarivate for their generous support of ZSL's awards programme.