Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award

Godfrey M. HewittGodfrey M. Hewitt (1940-2013) was President of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) from 1999-2001. He was exceptionally influential in evolutionary biology both through his research and through his mentoring of young scientists. He was also a great believer in seeing organisms in their environment first-hand and in exchanges of ideas between labs. Therefore, ESEB has decided to offer, annually, mobility grants for young scientists in his name.

More information about Godfrey M. Hewitt is available at the University of East Anglia, at Wikipedia, and at the Evolution Tree – The Academic Genealogy of Evolutionary Biology.


Call for Applications

Deadline: Monday, 16 January 2017, 12.00 GMT.


The award is open to PhD students or postdoctoral scientists who are, at the closing date for applications, both within 6 years of the start date of their PhD and ESEB members. In addition, applicants will be considered who are more than 6 years from the start of their PhD if they have had career breaks, worked part-time, or for other reasons have not worked continuously. The maximum single award will be 2000 Euros. It must be used to support fieldwork or a period of research at a lab that you have not previously visited. There is no restriction on the country of residence or nationality of the applicant. A report will be required after one year, by which time the funds must have been used.

Application procedure

Your application should be sent as a single PDF file to Ute Friedrich at the ESEB office, office@eseb.org. It should include your name, current status and institution, your PhD start date, your ESEB membership number, a description of the work to be carried out (maximum 500 words), an outline budget with brief justification (maximum 100 words) and a signed statement from your PhD supervisor or postdoctoral adviser (maximum 100 words) explaining why the work cannot be funded from your home institution or your proposed host institution.

Applications will be considered by a committee chaired by Roger Butlin. The aim will be to announce decisions before the end of March 2017.

The committee will consider the following key criteria:

1. The value of the proposed mobility in terms of its expected output and impact on the applicant’s career. The committee prefers projects that are:

  • Not a core component of the applicant’s existing PhD or postdoctoral project, but a new venture.
  • Clearly based on the applicant’s own initiative
  • Likely to be completed and have definable output within the award period
  • Have the potential to lead to larger future projects or to enhance the applicant’s career in evolutionary biology

2. The need for the GHM award, i.e. the potential for the funding provided by ESEB to make a difference, in relation to resources already available through the home or host institution.

Please endeavour to address these points in your application.

Accepted Proposals 2016

Epigenetic Modifications underlying Paternal Genome Elimination in Planococcus citri
Applicant: Stevie Anne Bain, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Funding provided: 2000 €

The evolution of body condition-dependent dispersal
Applicant: Celina Baines, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Canada
Funding provided: 2000 €

Deciphering the expression-fitness landscape across genes and environments
Applicant: Inês Fragata, Instituto Gulbenkian da Ciência (IGC), Oeiras, Portugal
Funding provided: 1980 €

Genomic changes associated with a climate-induced range expansion
Applicant: Marie Louis, University of St Andrews, UK
Funding provided: 1800 €

A test on the linearity of genetic correlations among floral traits from reciprocal artificial selection experiments
Applicant: Pengjuan Zu, Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Funding provided: 1950 €

Accepted Proposals 2015

Evolution of temperature-dependent sex determination in reptiles
Applicant: Thomas Merkling, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Funding provided: € 900

Sex allocation is a field I am very interested in and one the remaining mystery is how and why transitions between genotypic and environmental sex determination occur. The Godfrey Hewitt mobility award allowed me to visit Dr. Lisa Schwanz for 10 days at the University of New South Wales to collaborate on a theoretical model aiming to fill this gap. The idea of the model is that if juvenile survival to maturity is influenced by temperature and if males and females mature at different ages, then temperature-dependent sex determination (a form of environmental sex determination) should be selected for. The aim of my visit was to build a dataset compiling data on sex-determining mechanisms and sex-specific age at maturity of lizards, snakes, crocodiles and tuataras to add to the turtle data already collected by Dr. Schwanz and her colleagues. We then used phylogenetic generalised least square models to test for a relationship between sex-determination mechanisms and difference in age at maturity in these groups, but unfortunately the results did not corroborate the predictions of the model.

Effects of genetics and environment on among‐individual variation in mitochondrial density and functioning in a natural bird population
Applicant: Jennifer Morinay, University Lyon 1 – CNRS, Villeurbanne, France
Funding provided: € 1750

The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to carry out a cross-fostering experiment in a natural population of collared flycatchers on the Island Gotland, Sweden. The aim of this experiment was to investigate effects of genetics and environment on among-individual variation in red blood cell (RBC) attributes, particularly mitochondrial density. In contrast to mammals, birds possess functional mitochondria in their RBCs, thus offering unique opportunities to obtain measures of mitochondrial numbers and function using low invasive procedures: blood sampling instead of surgery or culling. Information was collected on RBC parameters in 263 nestlings and 145 adults, and the preliminary results indicate that (i) individuals with larger RBCs have few circulating cells; (ii) larger RBCs are enclosing larger number of mitochondria and lower levels of ATP; (iii) RBC size is moderately heritable (19%); and larger nestlings have smaller RBCs. This work was done in collaboration with Dr. Pierre Bize, University of Aberdeen, and Dr. Blandine Doligez, University of Lyon 1.

Genomic imprinting of soldier-activity loci in polyembryonic parasitoid wasps
Applicant: Petri Rautiala, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
Funding provided: € 1100

The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to visit Dr. Andy Gardner at the University of St Andrews to construct a mathematical model to investigate the function of the “soldier”-caste of certain polyembryonic parasitoid wasps. Whether the soldiers are there to protect their brothers and sisters, or that they actually kill their brothers to make room for their sisters, has been a source of controversy for over a century. We found that the competing hypotheses make different predications about patterns of gene expression. These contrasting predictions point to a possible resolution of the controversy of the soldiers’ function, and could also help researchers discover new genes for soldiering, by looking at the expression patterns for candidate genes, and see which ones are deactivated according to their parent of origin. The study, “Intragenomic conflict over soldier allocation in polyembryonic parasitoid wasps”, was accepted to be published in the April 2016 issue of The American Naturalist.

Grubs of doubt: The impact of stem-borers on Mercurialis annua life-history traits
Applicant: Luka Rubinjoni, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia
Funding provided: € 1750

Thanks to ESEB’s Godfrey Hewitt Mobility award, I was able to conduct a field survey in Spain during the spring of 2015, and a research visit to Prof. John Pannell’s lab at University of Lausanne, Switzerland. I studied the impact of Kalcapion semivitattum (Apionidae), a monophagous folivore with stem-boring larvae, on life-history traits of Mercurialis anuua (Euphorbiaceae), an annual herb with different ploidy levels (from diploid, to hexaploid) and reproductive systems (monoecy, androdioecy, dioecy) across its range. In order to explore the potential role of herbivore specialists in plant reproductive system evolution, I searched for differences in infestation intensity among the plant genders, in natural and experimental conditions. I also looked for evidence of insect specialization to different ploidy levels, and its potential role in contact zone shift and diploid range expansion. The samples were collected across the monecious hexaploid / dioecious diploid contact zone, along the Mediterranean coast, from Barcelona to Valencia. Plants were measured and dissected, and leaf samples were preserved by fast drying in silica gel. Grubs were counted and preserved in alcohol, along with collected adults. In Lausanne, local insects were successfully reared on both diploid and hexaploid plants. A phylogeographic study K. semivittatum across the range of M. annua is in preparation.

Are males and females equally honest? Insights on the determinants of sexual ornaments in a sexually monomorphic bird species: the king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
Applicant: Quentin Schull, University of Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France
Funding provided: € 1750

When assessing mate or competitor condition, animals often rely on ornamental signals that are costly to produce and/or maintain, thus natural selection is expected to favour the evolution of sexual ornaments that honestly reflect individual quality. Whereas ornaments are known to reflect physiological/social quality of the bearer and be implicated in both male and female king penguin pairing decisions, we lack knowledge on how physiological status during moult, the time these ornaments are renewed, may determine their showy nature. The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to work under the supervision of Dr Pierre Bize from the University of Aberdeen. By experimentally increasing Corticosterone basal level and stimulating the immune system during moult we highlight that some ornamental features appear more intrinsically linked to genetic individual quality whereas others are determined by individual’s physiological status at the time of the moult.

Showing off in birds: is cooperativeness a mating signal? Experimental study manipulating the audience in the Sociable weavers, Philetairus socius
Applicant: Arnaud Tognetti, Institute for Advanced Study, Toulouse, France
Funding provided: € 1950

Cooperative behaviours provide benefits to the recipients but are costly to the actor. Cooperative behaviours can only be selected if costs of cooperation are compensated by fitness benefits. These benefits can be either direct or indirect. However, the importance of sexual benefits has been overlooked in non-human species. In collaboration with the Sociable Weaver Research Project lead by Dr. Rita Covas (CIBIO-Portugal & FitzPatrick Institute-South Africa) and Dr. Claire Doutrelant (CNRS-France), I proposed to examine the role of sexual selection in the evolution of cooperation in this cooperatively breeding passerine. I wanted to investigate whether helpers would increase their nestlings provisioning when playbacks of female songs are broadcasted. With the Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award, I bought the materials needed to conduct field experiments in South Africa. Unfortunately, El Niño phenomenon caused intense drought in Africa that impacted drastically the weavers’ reproduction and prevented me from conducting my experiment. Nonetheless, I initiated a collaboration with Dr. Fanny Rybak (University ParisSud, France), a specialist in acoustic communication, which allowed me to prepared playbacks and performed pilot experiments testing the feasibility of the experiment. I also recorded males and females songs to increase the number of playbacks I will be able to use during the experiment next year. These songs are currently analysed acoustically and show interesting sex differences.

Meiotic Drive Frequency in Morrocan Drosophila
Applicant: Rudi Verspoor, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
Funding provided: € 1600

X-chromosome meiotic drive frequency in Moroccan Drosophila

Selfish genetic elements are diverse and ubiquitous across the tree of life. Intra-genomic conflict, driven by these elements can cause rapid, population specific co-evolution and speciation genes have been associated with meiotic drive chromosomes (selfish chromosomes that bias their transmission into the next generation at the cost of their sister chromosome). However, despite interest in meiotic drive causing speciation, few tests have examined whether naturally occurring drivers create incompatibilities between populations. Previously, I have found that XCMD from Tunisia is incompatible when crossed into Spain and UK populations, creating strong incompatibilities resulting in male infertility. The Godfrey Hewitt mobility award allowed me to field sample Moroccan populations to expand my work in this system. I found the first definitive evidence that there are active XCMD chromosomes in Moroccan populations of Drosophila subobscura. Results from genetic analysis suggest there is a single origin of meiotic drive in Drosophila subobscura, which subsequently spread across North Africa, and very recently into southern Spain. We find no evidence for incompatibilities between a driver from Tunisia and populations of flies collected from Morocco. There is however, some evidence for suppression of a Tunisian driver in Morocco, which will require further study.

Accepted Proposals 2014

Evolution of interactions between two spider mites species
Applicant: Salomé Clemente, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
Funding provided: € 800

The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to work under the supervision of Dr. Moya-Laraño, at the Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas- CSIC Almería, Spain. During the three short stays funded by this award we developed an Individual Based Model concerning the evolution of interactions of two closely related spider mite species. Tetranychus urticae and T. evansi compete in host plants, mainly Solenaceae, and it has been found that their competitive interactions in tomato plants are influenced by the fact that the two species have distinct capacities of dealing with tomato plant defenses. T. evansi is able to downregulate these defenses, while T. urticae does not have this ability and triggers the plant defenses upregulation. The aim of the model is to study the evolution of strategies under coexistence. For the first time we implemented multidimensional quantitative genetics in a haplodiploid system. The model we developed is spacially explicit and includes 3 traits: dispersal, induction/downregulation of defenses and assimilation efficiency.

The role of genetic structure and ecologically relevant genetic variation for the adaptive potential of Salix herbacea L.
Applicant: Andrés J. Cortés, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
Funding provided: € 1500

I was participating in a transplant of Salix herbacea between alpine microhabitats (snowbeds and ridges) in the Swiss Alps. I was able to travel there for the second year thanks to a Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award. This work was done in collaboration with other PhD students and researchers based in Davos and Konstanz and the experiment was financed by a Swiss Sinergia grant. Interestingly, we detected plasticity rather than adaptive differentiation and this fits well with the high levels of gene flow throughout the entire population that we have previously reported (see “Small-scale patterns in snowmelt timing affect gene flow and the distribution of genetic diversity in the alpine dwarf shrub Salix herbacea”). As we did not find any adaptive differentiation we did not pursue further genetic studies of this material, rather we concentrated on a more range wide sampling in order to establish genotype-phenotype associations and to identify genetic regions under selection.

Evolution in real time: The invasion of Drosophila suzukii
Applicant: Antoine Fraimout, Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France
Funding provided: € 1500

My PhD project focus on the evolution of genetic variation in the context of biological invasion. To address this question I am studying the recent invasion of Europe and the USA by the Asian spottedwing Drosophila, Drosophila suzukii. The first chapter of my PhD is focused on the evolution of the G-matrix in the invasive populations of D. suzukii compared to their native counterparts, using quantitative genetics and controlled breeding design from live D. suzukii stocks. The second chapter is centered on the inference of the invasion routes of D. suzukii using microsatellite markers and Bayesian models to test for different invasion scenarios and discriminate the most probable routes of introduction of the species. Both these projects need a large amount of samples from native and invaded areas of D. suzukii. Thanks to the Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award, I was able to travel to Japan, one of D. suzukii’s native area, to collect precious samples for my project. This mission was also a great opportunity to meet and collaborate with Japanese researchers who greatly helped my project.

Spatiotemporal variation in assortative mating in Darwin’s Finches
Applicant: Kiyoko Gotanda, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Funding provided: € 2000

My goal is to understand spatiotemporal variation in assortative mating and its association with spatiotemporal variation in disruptive selection – both of which will be related to environmental variation and phenotypic properties of an incipient species. To do this, I worked with a group of researchers who are studying spatiotemporal variation in selection and beak shape in Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos Islands. The Godfrey Hewitt Award allowed me to conduct my field work in the Galápagos where I planned to collect data between populations and compare it to previously collected data to assess spatiotemporal variation in assortative mating. However the breeding season started later than expected, so I focused my field work on understanding how humans are altering selection on beak shape in Darwin’s finches. The role of human influence is another component of the long term research studying Darwin’s finches.

Parasites of Artemia: recognizing the players in a complex system
Applicant: Eva Lievens, University Montpellier 2 & Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CNRS), France
Funding provided: € 1547

The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award allowed me to visit Dr. Marta Sánchez at the Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC) in Sevilla, Spain, as part of my PhD research on host-parasite coevolution in Artemia. Artemia (brine shrimp) are often heavily parasitized, and are mainly infected by cestodes (which use them as an intermediate host) and microsporidia. The main purpose of my visit was to learn how to identify the eleven different cestode species infecting Mediterranean brine shrimp, most of which are not easily detected or differentiated. This skill will be very useful as I track the cestode prevalence in my sample populations. I also sampled local Artemia and experimentally investigated the impact of pollution on infection by microsporidia. Finally, I was able to exchange ideas and start some collaborations with the scientists at the Estación Biológica de Doñana during my visit.

The evolution of self-organized dominance hierarchies
Applicant: Andrés Quiñones, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
Funding provided: € 1700

Dominance hierarchies are widespread in animal societies. Individuals at the top of the hierarchy get priority access to resources. From behavioural observations, it is known that hierarchies are determined by a series of antagonistic interactions, where the winners attain the top of the hierarchy. However, engaging in antagonistic interactions implies some costs because individuals can die while fighting. How should individuals balance their enrolment in antagonistic interactions, given that they face a trade-off between access-to-resources and survival? During my lab visit at Professor Theraulaz’s group in Toulouse, I addressed this question using an evolutionary model where natural selection drives behavioural strategies that determine individuals’ enrolment in antagonistic fights. I find that the trade-off, between survival and access-to-resources, causes a branching point. Therefore, two different strategies evolve. One that engages in many fights and monopolize resources, but runs the risk of dying. And another one, that fights less often and enjoys high survival, but is less likely monopolize resources. These two strategies are maintained in the population by frequency-dependent selection.

Investigating the influence of environmental change on species extinction
Applicant: Jessica Thomas, Bangor University, UK / University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Funding provided: € 1700

My PhD research in ancient population genetics focuses on species-environment interactions and the influence of environmental change on species extinction. It aims to investigate the influence of climate warming on the extinction of the Great Auk, a cold adapted sea bird that went extinct in the 19th century. The project aims to reconstruct the population dynamics of the Great Auk through time using complete mitochondrial genome sequence data, and to correlate population size and range changes with contemporaneous environmental factors to identify factors that may have been detrimental or beneficial for Great Auk populations. The Godfrey Hewitt Mobility Award supported a two week trip to University of California, Santa Cruz, Paleogenomics lab, to work within Beth Shapiro’s group. The main aim of the trip was to learn state of the art techniques for analysing population genetic data using BEAST software but it also allowed me to meet and work with leaders of the field.