American Society of Naturalists

A membership society whose goal is to advance and to diffuse knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles so as to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.

2019 American Naturalist Student Paper Award

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The American Naturalist Student Paper Award is for work that was published in 2018 and that was performed primarily by the first author and primarily while she or he was an undergraduate or graduate student. There were over seventy eligible papers.

The recipient of the 2019 Student Paper Award is Marta Strecker Shocket, for her paper "Temperature drives epidemics in a zooplankton-fungus disease system: a trait-driven approach points to transmission via host foraging” (April 2018, 191(4):435-451), co-authored with Alexander Strauss, Jessica Hite, Maja Ijivar, ZDavid Civitello, Meghan Duffy, Carla Cãceres, and Spencer Hall. This is a remarkable combination of experimental work, modeling, and observational natural history rolled into one. Dr. Shocket and collaborators asked how climate warming will affect the dynamics of disease outbreaks. They emphasize the need for a mechanistic understanding of host-parasite interactions and the role of temperature to generate effective predictions. They develop a trait-based model that considers how temperature affects host foraging rates in a Daphnia-fungus interaction, and parameterized the model with laboratory experiments. They found that warming increased Daphnia foraging rates, which in turn increased fungal transmission success and epidemic size. The Editors appreciated the well-integrated mix of field data, lab experiments, mesocosm experiments, and theory, in service of a mechanistic understanding of species interactions. This paper has the potential to set a new standard for studies of the role of temperature-dependence in disease dynamics.

Marta Shocket, a Ph.D. student at Indiana University at the time of the study, collects samples on a lake in Greene-Sullivan State Forest in southern Indiana.
Marta Shocket, a Ph.D. student at Indiana University at the time of the study, collects samples on a lake in Greene-Sullivan State Forest in southern Indiana.

Honorable Mentions

  • Nicolas Schnedler-Meyer, for his paper “Evolution of complex asexual reproductive strategies in jellyfish”, coauthored with Simone Pigolotti and Patizio Mariani (July 2018, 192(1):72-80). This paper stood out to us because it presents a simple but elegant model of life history evolution that was solidly grounded in natural history (jellyfish life cycles). The study considers the diversity of asexual modes of reproduction in scyphozoan jellyfish, to describe tradeoffs among dispersal, dormancy, and local spread. Which life history strategy dominates depends on the nature of environmental variation, as the authors demonstrate with an Evolutionary Stable Strategy analysis. Not only do they effectively model which life histories should evolve in which environmental settings for jellyfish, but they do an excellent job of linking their findings to similar kinds of variance discounting adaptations in plants and other animals. They very effectively relate their model results back to published empirical literature, in ways that both provide compelling support for their approach and raise new testable hypotheses.
  • Amanda Gibson, for her paper “Periodic, parasite-mediated selection for and against sex”, co-authored with Lynda Delph, Daniela Vergara, and Curt Lively (November 2018, 192(5):537-551). This is an impressive exploration of the maintenance of polymorphic reproductive strategies (sexual or asexual) via frequency-dependent co-evolution between host and pathogen. The authors fuse long-term field data and mescocosm experiments to demonstrate that a parasite Microphallus evolves to specialize on whichever host snail type (sexual or asexual) is most common, thereby maintaining host polymorphism. The fusion of experimental and field data is impressive, and yields a major contribution to a fundamental and long-standing subject in evolutionary biology, the maintenance of sexual reproduction.

Daniel I. Bolnick, Editor-in-Chief
Russell Bonduriansky, Editor
Alice Winn, Editor

with the 2017 editors who handled many of the 2018 papers,
Judith Bronstein, former Editor-in-Chief
Yannis Michilakis, former Editor