Daniel Becker wins the British Ecological Society’s Sidnie Manton Award

The British Ecological Society (BES) announced today that Daniel Becker, postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University, has been awarded the Sidnie Manton Award for the best review article in Journal of Animal Ecology by an early career researcher.

Tree swallows (left) and house finches (centre) were especially well studied Daniel & co-authors' sample of spatial approaches to wildlife immunity. Photographs by Daniel Becker and Alexander Becker.

Daniel has been awarded the prize for his article titled Macroimmunology: The drivers and consequences of spatial patterns in wildlife immune defence, which he was the lead author on.

The paper is particularly topical as it has relevance to the current pandemic. In the paper, Daniel and co-authors coin the term for an emerging field ‘macroimmunology’, where macroecological approaches (the study of relationships between organisms and their environment at large scales) are applied to ecoimmunology (the study of the causes and consequences of variation in immunity). The paper also provides new guidance for discovering patterns and identifying large-scale ecological drivers of variation in animal disease burden and immunity.

Lesley Lancaster, Senior Editor of Journal of Animal Ecology said: “The Novel Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted a need to document patterns and develop robust predictions for the spread of disease within and between wildlife and humans. Global-scale environmental changes such as climate change, urbanisation and habitat loss are predicted to affect the spread of both disease and responses in hosts and pathogens.

“Understanding drivers of disease may lead to better predictions and management of this and future pandemics. However, an integrative and synthetic approach to tackling these issues is often lacking, which has led some ecologists to call for the development of a broader field of global disease ecology. The ideas outlined in this winning paper are a step towards this goal.”

Daniel Becker said: “It’s a great honour to receive the Sidnie Manton Award. Journal of Animal Ecology is one of my favourite resources for disease ecology and ecoimmunology studies, and this work is a timely collaboration between these fields to better understand and predict how environmental change affects infectious disease.”

Daniel is a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University. His research combines field studies of wild bats and birds, ecoimmunology, comparing evolutionary relationships, theoretical models, and machine learning to understand how pathogens spread within and between animal populations and species and how environmental change will alter disease risks. He will be starting as an Assistant Professor at the University of Oklahoma in Fall 2021.

The award is named in honour of Sidnie Manton, a highly regarded zoologist best known for her work on the functional morphology and evolution of arthropods, also known as simply “the high priestess of the arthropods”. She was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1948 becoming only the seventh women to achieve the accolade. Sidnie Manton’s legacy to science is her vast body of work and observational studies.