British Ecological Society award winners 2021 announced

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

BES winners 2021. Credit information: Sue Hartley ©2009 john houlihan; Ruth DeFries credit; Yvonne Buckley credit Vivien Buckley
Top row (L-R) Sue Hartley, Peter Vitousek, Gretchen Daily, Pat Monaghan, Yvonne Buckley Middle row (L-R) Julia Koricheva, Ruth DeFries, Paula Kahumbu, Dara Stanley, Zoe Davies Bottom row (L-R) Charudatt Mishra, Ian Newton, BlackAFin STEM Collective/ Black Birders Week

This year, honorary membership, the highest honour given by the society, has been awarded to four distinguished ecologists: Sue Hartley, former BES president; Peter Vitousek; Gretchen Daily and Pat Monaghan.

While this year’s President’s Medal, which is awarded at the end of each president’s two year term, goes to Yvonne Buckley for both her research and contributions to the ecological community, including the mentoring of women at all levels of higher education.

The BlackAFin STEM Collective are named this year’s Equality and Diversity Champions for their work in raising the profiles of Black scientists and organising the hugely successful annual event, Black Birders Week.

Professor Jane Memmott, President of the British Ecological Society, said: “The BES awards recognise and celebrate the extraordinary contributions of individuals and groups to advancing ecology and communicating its importance for society. This year’s winners are no exception, and I am delighted to offer my congratulations to each and every one of them.”

The full list of 2021 BES award and prize winners is as follows:

Honorary Membership: Sue Hartley, The University of Sheffield; Peter Vitousek, Stanford University; Gretchen Daily, Stanford University; Pat Monaghan, University of Glasgow.

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.

Sue Hartley is currently Vice President for Research at the University of Sheffield and has a research career spanning almost 35 years. In this career Sue has delivered the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, served as president of the BES, a trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Board member for Natural England, and was the founding director of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute at the University of York. Sue is a champion of inter-disciplinary work and strives to ensure conservation policy and practice are evidence based.

On receiving the award, Sue said: “I’m absolutely overwhelmed by this fantastic honour – I couldn’t be more delighted with this award and I regard it as the pinnacle of my ecological career. I have a long association with the British Ecological Society, which I joined while I was still a PhD student.”

Peter Vitousek has made pioneering achievements in understanding nutrient cycling, using the Hawaiian Islands he grew up on as the focus for his studies. Peter’s work on the Hawaii Ecosystems Project has enabled researchers from institutions worldwide to study questions in forest ecology, ecosystem restoration, soil science, atmospheric chemistry, and isotope geochemistry at a variety of sites on Hawaii.

On receiving the award, Peter said: “It is a great honour for me personally, and I take it as a formal recognition of the value of research in a human context.”

Gretchen Daily is Bing Professor of Environmental Science in the Department of Biology at Stanford University, the Director of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford, and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Gretchen’s career has focussed on understanding how to harmonize people and nature. Gretchen is credited with pioneering the field of Countryside Biogeography, a framework for elucidating the fates of populations, species, and ecosystems in the countryside.

On receiving the award, Gretchen said: “The credit in this great honour shines on many people, from the scientists working together with people in the real world beyond academe, to the bold heroes who look ahead and see how to transform livelihoods and societies. The promise and momentum comes from scheming and dreaming together – and embarking on ever more compelling demonstrations of nature-positive pathways of human development.”

Pat Monaghan is the Regius Professor of Zoology at the University of Glasgow and is an internationally recognised scientist. Pat’s research focusses on how individuals respond to changing environmental conditions and how this can shape individual life histories.

On receiving the award, Pat said: “I feel really honoured to receive this award. I have been a BES member all of my working life, so this means a lot to me.”


President’s Medal: Yvonne Buckley, Trinity College Dublin

The BES President awards this prestigious honour at the end of each term of office (every two years) as a personal gift.

Yvonne Buckley is Professor of Zoology at Trinity College Dublin and has spent time in Ireland, the UK and Australia throughout her research career. Yvonne is a population ecologist who applies fundamental ecology to pressing challenges for the environment and society.

On receiving the award, Yvonne said: “Being awarded the BES President’s medal is a huge honour for me. I clearly remember the very first BES conference I attended before starting my PhD at Imperial College London. The talks I saw there were fascinating and inspirational, and I met people who would go on to be great colleagues and friends, it was like a new world of knowledge was opened up to me.”


Marsh Award for Ecology: Julia Koricheva, Royal Holloway University of London
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 Charitable Trust and administered by the British Ecological Society.

Julia Koricheva is a professor of ecology at Royal Holloway University of London, joining first as a lecturer in 2005 after working as a postdoc at the University of Zurich and studying at St Petersburg State University and the University of Turku. Julia’s research focuses on forest biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, plant-herbivore interactions, and research synthesis and meta-analysis in ecology.

On receiving the award, Julia said: “I am very honoured to receive this award, proud to represent women in ecology and am deeply grateful to the society for this recognition. I am a big believer in the role of research synthesis in science and am particularly pleased that this award recognises the importance of meta-analysis in ecology.”


Marsh Award for Climate Change Research: Ruth DeFries, Columbia University

This prize is awarded for an outstanding contribution to climate change research. It is provided by the Marsh Charitable Trust and administered by the British Ecological Society.

Ruth DeFries is a professor of ecology and sustainable development at Columbia University and co-founding dean of the Columbia Climate School. Ruth’s research addresses various dimensions of the ecological, climate and social aspects of land use change in the tropics. One aspect of this research includes analysis of satellite images to identify deforestation, forest degradation and agricultural patterns.

On receiving the award, Ruth said: “It is a surprise and an honour to receive this award. Most importantly, I interpret this award as a recognition that research that spans across multiple disciplines and takes on questions that are relevant for human decision-making is becoming more valued in scientific societies.”


Marsh Award for Ecologists in Africa: Paula Kahumbu, WildlifeDirect
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 Charitable Trust and administered by the British Ecological Society.

Paula Kahumbu is the CEO of Conservation NGO WildlifeDirect and since 2014 has spearheaded the Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign to restore Kenyan leadership in elephant conservation through behaviour change at all levels of society.

On receiving the award, Paula said: “I am really honoured and humbled to be receiving this award.  It is a recognition of the importance of research and science in achieving results in conservation. I hope that it inspires many more women to pursue higher degrees and research as a vital tool for conservation in Africa.”


Founders’ Prize: Dara Stanley, University College Dublin
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.

Dara Stanley is an ecologist interested in insects and their interactions with plants, from a basic ecological perspective through to conservation and roles in agriculture. Dara began her research career as a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin and has spent time in London, Pietermaritzburg in South Africa and Galway before starting her current position of Lecturer in Applied Entomology at University College Dublin.

On receiving the award, Dara said: “Ecology is becoming an increasingly important and well-recognised discipline, especially in this era of biodiversity loss and climate change, and the BES is at the forefront of this. I have been a BES member throughout my career and have benefitted so much from BES annual meetings, SIGs, funding, and publications. Therefore, as an early-career ecologist it means so much to me to get this award from BES.”


BES Award: Zoe Davies, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent

This Award is made in recognition of exceptional service to the Society.

Zoe Davies is a professor of biodiversity conservation at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent. Zoe is fascinated by the process of integrating knowledge across traditional disciplinary boundaries to tackle conservation problems.

On receiving the award, Zoe said: “It was a complete surprise, but a real delight, to hear that I had won the BES Award. It means a huge amount to have your efforts recognised by your peers. BES is a fantastic community. Over the years it has been really rewarding to help shape the direction BES through various roles, such as being part of the Meetings Committee, Policy Committee, Board of Trustees and Advisory Board for Applied Ecology Resources.”


Ecological Engagement Award: Charudutt Mishra, Snow Leopard Trust
This Award recognises an ecologist who has bridged the gap between ecology and other groups.

Charudutt Mishra is the Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust, responsible for guiding research and conservation programmes in snow leopard range countries of Asia. The impacts of Charudutt’s work are transforming environmental conflict management in Asia’s great mountains, benefiting some of the most iconic wildlife species and remote rural communities, and influencing global policies.

On receiving the award Charudutt said: “I was pleasantly surprised and humbled to get the news about this award. We have formalised our community-engagement approach into the so-called PARTNERS Principles, and our team is training conservationists from around the world in this approach. It is a nice recognition of the importance of respectful, ethical, and pragmatic community engagement in biodiversity conservation.”


Equality and Diversity Champion: BlackAFin STEM Collective
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.

May 31, 2020, saw the start of the inaugural Black Birders Week, which was organized by a group of STEM professionals and students known as the BlackAFinSTEM collective. The collective aims to raise the profiles of Black scientists and engineers, and facilitate networking among the community. Black Birders Week in particular aims to raise the profiles of Black birdwatchers and normalise the idea that Black people can also be field scientists. The initiative highlighted research carried out by Black birders, the happiness they find in nature, the racism experienced, and the importance of inclusivity in the outdoors.


Marsh Ecology Book of the Year award: Ian Newton for Uplands and Birds

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.

Ian Newton’s research career has taken him from the University of Oxford, the Nature Conservancy, the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, and then the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. After retiring in 2000, Ian continued research and writing, focussing on factors affecting bird populations.

Uplands and Birds is about human land-use in the mountains and moorlands of Britain, and its effects on bird populations, whether livestock grazing, commercial forestry, grouse or deer management.

Ian has been the recipient of the BES Gold Medal in 1989, served as President of the BES in 1995-96, became an Honorary Member in 1999, and received the BES Marsh Award for an earlier book (Bird Populations) in 2014.

On receiving the award Ian said: “It is pleasing for book authors to gain recognition of this type, especially from respected organisations, such as the BES. The fact that the BES formed such a large and rewarding part of my own life in the past only adds to the pleasure.”


The winners will be presented with their prizes during a ceremony held at Ecology Across Borders, a joint conference with the French Society for Ecology and Evolution (SFE²), which runs from 12 – 15 December in Liverpool. The meeting will bring together 1,200 ecologists (in person and online) to discuss the latest advances in ecological research across the whole discipline.