The Elton Prize is awarded by the British Ecological Society each year for the best paper in Journal of Animal Ecology written by an early career author at the start of their research career. We are delighted to announce that Rob Salguero-Gómez has won the 2016 Elton Prize for his paper: COMADRE: a global data base of animal demography.
Demographic information is key for answering many of the questions evolutionary ecologists, population biologists, and scientists involved in management and conservation have to tackle. However, demographic information can be quite difficult to obtain and results from detailed case studies that are scattered in a vast array of written accounts, including scientific papers and management reports. A tool for synthetizing the vast amount of accumulated demographic information was, until recently, lacking. Such a tool is sorely needed, especially nowadays when comparative analyses of life history traits have become a gold standard both for better understanding the diversity of life histories across the tree of life and for improving our knowledge about population dynamics of threatened (or exploited) species or populations. In this paper, Rob Salguero-Gomez and his co-authors fill this gap nicely by providing the missing tool in the form of an open animal matrix database (called COMADRE) that includes 1625 population projection matrices offering demographic information for 345 animal species. They show that once properly standardized, demographic traits can be compiled across animal species with highly different life cycles and offer the necessary basis to support comparative demographic analyses at an unprecedentedly large scale of biological organization. The editors thought that the paper fills an important knowledge gap in animal ecology by providing the missing information to perform demographic analyses at both intra- and inter-specific levels. This paper makes an excellent contribution to Journal of Animal Ecology and it has already been spotted as a key paper by the scientific community by quickly becoming the most downloaded paper published in Journal of Animal Ecology in 2016. The editors were also impressed by Rob’s ability to coordinate so successfully this huge work that involved a large network of people.
Rob Salguero-Gómez obtained his PhD in Ecology & Evolution at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011, and he is currently the leader of the SalGo Team. His group’s research explores the determinants of large natural variation found among the life history strategies of animals and plants worldwide, for which he uses a combination of field, experimental and large-data approaches. He is also the co-leader of the COMADRE Animal Matrix Database and the COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database and holds honorary fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (Germany), the University of Queensland (Australia), and Trinity College Dublin (Ireland). Rob will soon be joining the faculty of the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford, where he will continue to develop the COMADRE database, as well as exploring the role of trade-offs in the evolution of senescence, with a particular emphasis on demographic oddities, such as animals that demographically behave like plants (e.g. corals, sponges, etc.), and plants that behave like animals (sundews, venus traps, heterotrophic plants, etc.).
Roberto Salguero-Gómez, Owen R. Jones, C. Ruth Archer et al. (2016), Journal of Animal Ecology 85: 371–384.
In addition to Rob, the following two papers have been highly commended
Evidence of the phenotypic expression of a lethal recessive allele under inbreeding in a wild population of conservation concern. Amanda E. Trask Eric M. Bignal, Davy I. McCracken, Pat Monaghan, Stuart B. Piertney and Jane M. Reid
Piscivorous fish exhibit temperature-influenced binge feeding during an annual prey pulse. Nathan B. Furey, Scott G. Hinch, Matthew G. Mesa and David A. Beauchamp
These papers have been included in a free virtual issue alongside the winners and highly commended papers from the other British Ecological Society journals Early Career Researcher Awards.