Announcing the 2020 British Ecological Society award winners

The British Ecological Society (BES) announced today the winners of its annual awards and prizes, recognising eleven distinguished ecologists whose work has benefited the scientific community and society in general.

Top row left-to-right: Mike Begon, Sandra Lavorel, Michel Loreau, Teja Tscharntke, Wendy Foden, David Odee. Bottom row left-to-right: Tommaso Jucker, Juliet Vickery, Helen Roy, Iain Stott, Kimberly A. With.

This year, honorary membership, the highest honour given by the society, has been awarded to three eminent ecologists: Mike Begon, Sandra Lavorel and Michel Loreau. While this year’s BES award recognises Juliet Vickery, whose work leading the scientific team at RSPB underpins the work of the organisation in conserving threatened sites, species and habitats throughout the world.

Helen Roy, current president of the Royal Entomological Society, is also recognised with the Ecological Engagement Award for her active work in citizen science and her role in BES’s Public Engagement Working Group, making a major contribution to how the society approaches public engagement.

Professor Jane Memmott, President of the British Ecological Society, said:

“I am delighted to offer my congratulations to the winners of this year’s BES awards for their exceptional contributions to ecology. Each year these prizes recognise and celebrate the exceptional contributions of individuals to advancing ecology and communicating its importance for society.”

The full list of 2020 BES award and prize winners is as follows:

Honorary Membership: Mike Begon, University of Liverpool; Sandra Lavorel, CNRS, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research; Michel Loreau, CNRS

Honorary membership is the highest honour we can give and it recognises an exceptional contribution at international level to the generation, communication and promotion of ecological knowledge and solutions.

Mike Begon has spent his whole scientific career at the University of Liverpool, where he is now Professor of Ecology, specializing in the population and community ecology of infectious diseases in wildlife. The book Mike wrote with Colin Townsend and John Harper, Ecology: From Individuals to Ecosystems is hailed by world leaders in ecology as the definitive textbook on all aspects of the discipline and it remains the mainstay of ecology students, university courses and practitioners worldwide. 

On receiving the award Mike said: “I’m deeply grateful to the society, of which I’ve been a member all my working life. The British Ecology Society continues to punch way above its weight on the international stage. This makes me especially proud to be an Honorary Member.

Sandra Lavorel has focused her research on impacts of changes in climate and land management on ecosystems and their services. She builds on the strengths of functional ecology in order to improve the quantification of ecosystem services. Sandra has had a strong involvement in national and international projects, in France, Australia and other parts of the globe.

“Being awarded the British Ecological Society’s Honorary membership is an outstanding honour as a functional ecologist who has been influenced and impressed through her career by several eminent BES members.” said Sandra.

Michel Loreau’s main research theme during the past twenty years has been the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and the ecological and societal consequences of biodiversity loss. Michel has devoted significant efforts to fostering new research initiatives and linking science and policy in the area of biodiversity and ecosystem services internationally.

“I feel of course privileged and honoured to win this award.” said Michael. “I see it as a stimulus to continue to work toward my long-standing goals of building an integrative ecological theory that can guide empirical, experimental and applied ecological research, and providing useful new knowledge on the ecological and societal consequences of biodiversity loss. 

Marsh Award for Ecology: Teja Tscharntke, Georg-August-University of Göttingen
This prize is awarded for an outstanding current research record which is having a significant impact on the development of the science of ecology or its application. It is provided by the Marsh Christian Trust and administered by the British Ecological Society.

Teja Tscharntke is head of the Agroecology Group, at the University of Göttingen, Germany. His research focuses on biodiversity and the composition of communities of plants and animals as well as plant-insect interactions. He has been hugely influential in the field of agro-ecology. 

Speaking about his work being recognised by the award, Teja said: “My research areas which have been highlighted by this award cover concepts and findings that landscape structure affects local biodiversity and associated ecosystem services such as pollination and biocontrol.”

Marsh Award for Climate Change Research: Wendy Foden, South African National Parks, IUCN, University of Cape Town, University of Stellenbosch
This prize is awarded for an outstanding contribution to climate change research. It is provided by the Marsh Christian Trust and administered by the British Ecological Society.

Wendy Foden is a world-leading researcher in climate change vulnerability assessments of threatened species. Her work with IUCN and Red-listed species has global reach. Wendy is recognised for her interest in translating science for practical conservation use, and in fostering conservation leadership.

On winning the award, Wendy said: “I’m extremely proud to represent Africa’s woman scientists and hope that the award inspires other women scientists, particularly from developing countries, to step up to conservation and climate change challenges.

Marsh Award for Ecologists in Africa: David Odee, Kenyan Forestry Research Institute, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
This prize aims to celebrate the significant scientific achievements of African ecologists and raise their profile in the UK. It is provided by the Marsh Christian Trust and administered by the British Ecological Society.

David has worked extensively on the impact that anthropogenic disturbances can have on the processes that maintain tree species’ genetic diversity, and on how tree species can be brought into agriculture – from the points of view of making use of the beneficial associations that come with having trees on-farm, and on matching tree genetics to the target growing environment. Always, he has aimed to improve the delivery of tree products to African foresters and farmers, to improve and secure their livelihoods.

“I hope this award will further inspire many other researchers, especially early career scientists in Africa to do their utmost to further the cause.” Said David. “Recognition by BES and my peers is most humbling and encourages me to re-double efforts and continue to shine the spotlight on African ecological research.”

Founders’ Prize: Tommaso Jucker, University of Bristol
This Prize commemorates the enthusiasm and vision of the Society’s founders.  It is awarded to an outstanding early career ecologist who is starting to make a significant contribution to the science of ecology.

Tommaso has been called a rising star in forest ecology. His goal is to get a more accurate picture of what forests will look like in the future and better understand how they will respond to rapid environmental change, and in turn, how this will impact climate, biodiversity and people.

On winning the award Tommaso said: “It’s a huge honour. It’s hard to imagine my research career without the British Ecological Society. The BES annual meeting was the first conference I ever attend and presented my work at. Journal of Ecology is also where I published the first chapter of my PhD and is the journal that took a chance on me as a young associate editor.

BES Award: Juliet Vickery, RSPB
This Award is made in recognition of exceptional service to the Society.

The research by the scientific team that Juliet Vickery heads at the RSPB, underpins the work of the organisation in conserving threatened sites, species and habitats throughout the world. Juliet has been a long-standing supporter of the BES, most recently serving as the Chair of the BES Policy Committee. Under her careful stewardship the work and influence of the Society’s policy team has grown considerably.

“I am thrilled to receive this award from an organisation that has been such an important part of my career in terms of support and inspiration. It has been a privilege to work with such an engaged and active committee and with such expert and professional BES staff for so long – a great learning experience for me and huge fun!” said Juliet.

Ecological Engagement Award: Helen Roy, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
This Award recognises an ecologist who has bridged the gap between ecology and other groups.

Citizen science provides opportunities for engaging people actively in science and over the last ten years Helen Roy has led several major citizen science initiatives involving tens of thousands of people. Helen is the founder of the BES Citizen Science Special Interest Group and has played a very active role in the Society’s Public Engagement Working Group, making a major contribution to how the BES approaches public engagement.

On receiving the award Helen said: “It has been such a pleasure for me to collaborate with so many people to share my excitement and wonder for our natural worldI am so proud to be a member of the British Ecological Society and this recognition from the Society is an incredible honour for me.”

Equality and Diversity Champion: Iain Stott, University of Lincoln
This annual award recognises an individual or group who have campaigned to highlight the importance of equality and diversity and worked to make a difference or served as an inspiration to others. It honours and celebrates those who have made significant, innovative and cumulatively outstanding contributions to enhancing the practice of equality and diversity in the ecological community.

Iain has worked tirelessly in support of equality and diversity for the BES. He is a member of the BES Equality and Diversity Working Group, helped establish the BES LGBT+ Network and has organised all the BES LGBT+ Annual Meeting Mixers since they were first run in 2015. Iain is also a mentor in the Women in Ecology mentoring scheme and LGBTQ+ peer group mentoring.

“I wouldn’t say anything I’ve done is extraordinary, and in many ways I was surprised to win this award. On reflection however, I certainly could have done with many of these things as an early career researcher and I’ve never really felt like I know a senior LGBT+ academic role model to look up to.” said Iain.

Marsh Ecology Book of the Year award: Kimberly A. With, Kansas State University

Essentials of Landscape Ecology

The Marsh Ecology Book of the Year award aims to recognise the contribution authors make to ecology. The Award acknowledges the important role that books have on ecology and its development. It is awarded to the book published in the last two years that has had the greatest influence on ecology or its application.

On winning the award for her book Essentials of Landscape Ecology, Kimberly said: “I am beyond grateful to receive this recognition, especially as writing this book has been a very personal experience that required taking some professional risks. Researching and writing this book has been the most challenging project of my career, and ultimately, the most satisfying for me personally as well as professionally.”

The winners will be presented with their prizes during a ceremony held at the Society’s annual conference in December 2021 (due to a smaller face-to-face conference in 2020). The meeting will bring together 1,200 ecologists from around 60 countries to discuss the latest advances in ecological research across the whole discipline.