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 2022.
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 will present 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.
JEB & ESEB are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2020 Stearns Prize for a paper published in JEB by a graduate student is Jack Common, for their paper “Diversity in CRISPR-based immunity protects susceptible genotypes by restricting phage spread and evolution” (doi.org/10.1111/jeb.13638).
Jack finished their PhD at the University of Exeter in 2021, supervised by Edze Westra. Using bacteria and phage as a model system, their thesis explored how host diversity affects the timing, scale, and dynamics of host-pathogen interactions. In this paper Jack, alongside their co-authors, manipulated the immune diversity of bacterial hosts by controlling which CRISPR-Cas spacers were present in the host population. They then tracked the epidemiology and evolution of a phage that can infect a single host genotype in the population. They found that greater diversity results in protection of the susceptible host due to reduced contact rates with phage, alongside eco evolutionary interactions between host diversity, phage population size, and the likelihood of phage evolution. Outside of their work, Jack writes fiction, cycles, and looks at moss.
JEB & ESEB are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2019 Stearns Prize for a paper published in JEB by a graduate student is Thomas Keaney, for his paper “Mother’s curse and indirect genetic effects: do males matter to mitochondrial genome evolution?” (https://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.13561). Tom will present some of his work at the ESEB 2022 congress in Prague, Czech Republic.
Tom finished his Masters of Bioscience at the University of Melbourne in 2018, under the supervision of Luke Holman and Theresa Jones. His thesis focused on mitochondrial genetic variation, and how this can potentially be shaped by kin selection acting on males, whose mitochondrial DNA were traditionally considered to be invisible to selection. In this paper he, along with his coauthors, demonstrate that mitochondria in male Drosophila melanogaster have an indirect genetic effect on female fitness during mating interactions. This, in principle, allows mitochondrial genes to respond to selection on males when there is relatedness between mating pairs. Tom is now in the first year of his PhD, continuing his work with Luke Holman and Theresa Jones. He is now exploring intragenomic conflict, sexual selection and their effects on population viability. Outside of his PhD, Tom is a keen bushwalker and sports fan.
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).