ESEB and the Journal of Evolutionary Biology (JEB) award an annual prize for the best graduate research paper published in the journal in that calendar year. The award is named after Stephen Stearns, who played a major role in establishing both JEB and ESEB (article).
The Stearns Graduate Student Prize is aimed at recognising outstanding graduate (Masters or PhD) research. While previously awarded to a single winner, from 2022 onwards the JEB editorial board selects three joint awardees. This change recognises the fact that research excellence comes in many facets, ranging from the innovative nature of the questions addressed, over the technical challenges in performing the research to the scientific and societal impact of the results.
The award includes an invitation to attend the ESEB Congress (travel expenses and registration fee covered), where awardees will present their work in a dedicated Stearns Prize symposium.
The Stearns Prize recognises the outstanding contribution of graduate students to research published in JEB. Graduate students are eligible for the prize if they led both the research described in the article and the writing of the manuscript itself (and supervisors will be asked to confirm this before awards are made). Reflecting their role, we would then also usually expect the student to be the lead (first) author. We expect papers to be submitted within two years of completing the project.
During the process of submitting a manuscript to JEB, the corresponding author will be asked “Was this study led by a graduate student?”. If the corresponding author answers “Yes” and identifies the student among the authors, the manuscript is automatically considered for the Stearns Prize in the year of its publication. Self-nomination is also encouraged, where the graduate student leading the study is also the submitting and corresponding author.
For each calendar year, all papers published in JEB that were nominated at the point of submission as above are automatically longlisted for the Stearns Prize. Editors will be asked to nominate papers they handled for shortlisting based on the following criteria:
- paper addresses an innovative research question or approaches the question in an innovative way
- contains technically challenging work
- displays a particularly robust approach to answering the research question
Shortlisted papers are then ranked using the same criteria as above by a panel of editorial board members who did NOT handle the papers, to minimise bias towards a particular field.
The top 3 papers will be awarded the Stearns Prize for that calendar year. The full shortlist will be made available online for prize year 2022 onwards.
JEB & ESEB are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2021 Stearns Prize for a paper published in JEB by a graduate student is Juliette Aminian Biquet, for her paper “Phenotypic plasticity drives phenological changes in a Mediterranean blue tit population” (doi.org/10.1111/jeb.13950). Juliette presented some of her work at the ESEB2022 congress in Prague, Czech Republic.
We conducted this study during my Masters degree in 2019, supervised by Céline Teplitsky and Suzanne Bonamour, helped by Pierre de Villemereuil and the awesome tit team at CEFE (Montpellier, France). Forty years ago, researchers initiated monitoring of a blue tit population in Corsica, which now enables us to study their characteristics, including the evolution of their phenology over time. These birds have been laying eggs earlier and earlier, likely adapting to the changing climate, and the induced trophic shifts, to match the earlier peak of prey abundance. For my masters’ thesis, we wanted to understand whether the laying date advancement was due to changes in the genetic composition of the population, induced by selection across generations, or due to plastic variations within each generation of tits. Addressing such research questions remains challenging in wild populations, where monitoring individual fitness is difficult. Here, we used quantitative genetics, thanks to 40-years worth of data and a well-documented pedigree. We also worked a lot on the choice of our statistical Bayesian model, to be confident in our results. Finally, we showed that these birds could adapt based on their laying date plasticity, and found no genetic changes related to laying phenology. I personally was super excited to join this work on how we can describe and eventually predict evolution of living beings. I am now working on ecosystem conservation, in which evolutionary dimensions are very important and difficult to account for.
2020 – Jack Common
“Diversity in CRISPR-based immunity protects susceptible genotypes by restricting phage spread and evolution” (doi.org/10.1111/jeb.13638)
2019 – Thomas Keaney
“Mother’s curse and indirect genetic effects: do males matter to mitochondrial genome evolution?” (https://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.13561)
2018 – James Santangelo
“Herbivores and plant defenses affect selection on plant reproductive traits more strongly than pollinators” (https://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.13392).
2017 – Jack Colicchio
“Transgenerational Effects Alter Plant Defense and Resistance in Nature” (https://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.13042)
2016 – Amaranta Fontcuberta
“Extreme genetic diversity in asexual grass thrips populations” (https://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.12843)
2015 – James Lichtenstein
“Similar patterns of frequency-dependent selection on animal personalities emerge in three species of social spiders” (https://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.12651)
2014 – Ellie Harrison
“Sex drives intracellular conflict in yeast” (DOI: 10.1111/jeb.12408).