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.

2022 American Naturalist Student Paper Award

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The American Naturalist 2022 Student Paper Award is for work that was published in 2021 and that was performed primarily by the first author and primarily while she or he was an undergraduate or graduate student. The Editors of the journal, in consultation with Associate Editors, examine all student-authored papers in the journal to select an outstanding contribution that advances the journal’s goals of changing the way people think about organismal biology (including but not limited to ecology, evolution, and behavior) by providing new conceptual insights.

The recipient of the 2022 Student Paper Award is Paul Bendiks Walberg of Rutgers University for his paper “Warming Rates Alter Sequence of Disassembly in Experimental Communities” (with Edwin Green). This paper poses an unusual question. Many ecologists are concerned with how climate change impacts species’ distributions and extinction. A common approach is to focus on how the magnitude of warming, especially climate extremes, changes community composition. Walberg and Green pose an interesting twist by focusing on the speed of warming. Specifically, they ask, does the rate of warming (over hours, days, or weeks) change the order of species loss? Using experimental rotifer and cilitate communities, they varied the speed (rather than magnitude) of warming. Fast and slow warming both caused community collapse, but the order of extinctions was quite different. This work addresses some fundamental ideas in global change ecology, and also has intriguing implications for conservation. The Editors of The American Naturalist were impressed with the creative question and elegant experimental design. The graphical presentation was exceptionally clear and appealing, effectively conveying the core concepts and the specific results. This is a very nice example of experimental ecology with a strong conceptual underpinning, that also is pertinent to practical challenges we face today.

Honorable mentions: