Stearns Graduate Student Prize

ESEB & the Journal of Evolutionary Biology (JEB) editorial team award an annual prize for the best paper by a graduate student published in the journal in a calendar year. The prize is named after Stephen Stearns, who did so much to establish both JEB (including serving as first Editor) & ESEB (article).

The Stearns Graduate Student Prize is aimed at recognising outstanding graduate research, so the paper should primarily arise from a significant piece of work which was included in a Masters or PhD thesis. The prize will be conferred at the nearest ESEB Congress and announced in the journal and online.

The award comes with an invitation to the ESEB Congress (travel expenses and registration fee covered), a presentation in one of the congress symposia, and a cash prize of 250 €. We expect the corresponding or senior (first) author to be the graduate student primarily responsible for the research and paper writing, and the supervisor will be asked to confirm this for shortlisted papers. We expect papers to be submitted at the latest within five years of starting a PhD project. When papers are accepted we will ask if the paper is eligible to be considered for the award, and that all the authors agree to this. The prize will be selected by the Deciding Editors of the journal, and we expect the next award to be for a paper published in 2019.

Winner 2018

JEB & ESEB are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2018 Stearns Prize for a paper published in JEB by a graduate student is James Santangelo, for his paper “Herbivores and plant defenses affect selection on plant reproductive traits more strongly than pollinators” ( James will present some of his work at this year’s ESEB congress in Turku, Finland.

Picture of James Santangelo

James is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Marc Johnson and Rob Ness, although he began as a master’s student under the sole mentorship of Marc Johnson. His masters project, and focus of this paper, examined how investment in plant defences can alter biotic selection on plant reproductive traits, using white clover (Trifolium repens) as a model system. Upon transferring to PhD, he became increasingly interested in parallel evolution and his current work is focused on using urban environments as large-scale, replicated systems for testing the repeatability of phenotypic and genetic evolution. James is combining experimental, theoretical and genomic approaches to understand the environmental drivers of parallel (and non-parallel) evolutionary responses across multiple cities and levels of biological organization (from phenotypes to genes). When not engaged in research, James enjoys developing teaching resources for computer programming and data science, playing video games, and all manner of outdoor activities.

Runners-up were Eva Troianou, Peter Moran, Urtzi Enriquez-Urzelai, Joshua Alpern, and Casper van der Kooi.

Winner 2017

JEB & ESEB are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2017 Stearns Prize for a paper published in JEB by a graduate student is Jack Colicchio, for his paper “Transgenerational Effects Alter Plant Defense and Resistance in Nature” ( Jack will present some of his work at the 2019 ESEB congress in Turku, Finland.

Picture of Jack ColicchioJack recently completed his doctoral studies at the University of Kansas under the mentorship of Lena Hileman and John Kelly. While the bulk of his dissertation was focused on transcriptomic and epigenomic responses to wounding in isogenic lab lines of Mimulus guttatus, this paper arose as an independent project exploring variability for this response across natural populations. Jack is currently working with Dr. Benjamin Blackman at the University of California Berkeley where he is continuing to pursue his research on interactions between the genome, epigenome, and environment. With a new focus on plant responses to abiotic variables he hopes to shed light onto the potential implications of transgenerational inheritance on plant acclimation in the face of climate change. Besides his post-doctoral research, Jack is active in developing citizen science resources to monitor the phenologies of ecologically important plant species across the Western US ( and enjoys rock climbing and other outdoor pursuits.

2017 – Runners-up were Keely Brown, Zacharia Grochau-Wright, Ryosuke Iritani, Kim Kirchhoff , and Erin Morrison.

Previous Winners

2016 – Amaranta Fontcuberta

“Extreme genetic diversity in asexual grass thrips populations” (

2016 – Runners-up were Matt Wilkins and Karl Grieshop.

2015 – James Lichtenstein

“Similar patterns of frequency-dependent selection on animal personalities emerge in three species of social spiders” (

2015 – Runners-up were Arthur Porto, Evan Hersh, and Damien Farine.

2014 – Ellie Harrison

“Sex drives intracellular conflict in yeast” (DOI: 10.1111/jeb.12408).

2014 – Runners-up were Kay Lucek and Sean Lee.