Last night two members of our Department were recognised at the ZSL Scientific Awards Presentation - congratulations to both Joe Wynn (a doctoral training student) and Dr Shana Caro (who completed her DPhil in the Department).
The Charles Darwin Award and Marsh Prize is awarded for the best zoological project by an undergraduate student. This year’s winner is Joe Wynn, University of Oxford, for his project ‘Gone with the wind: how a pelagic seabird reacts to weather’. In this exceptional study Joe analysed the results of GPS trackers attached to Manx shearwaters from three colonies to investigate their feeding strategies in relation to weather and colony size. This project represents what is probably the largest ever single GPS tracking study of wild birds and the results, which employ a novel statistical model developed by Joe, provide ground-breaking evidence of how shearwaters plan foraging routes and destinations based on the energetic advantages of outbound wind conditions at the colony. This remarkable research obtained the highest mark among 110 final projects at Oxford University. Joe is a talented and innovative researcher, and we are delighted to present him with a cheque for £800, kindly sponsored by the Marsh Christian Trust.
The Thomas Henry Huxley Award and Marsh Prize is presented for the best PhD thesis. This year’s winner is Shana Caro, University of Oxford, for her thesis ‘Social and environmental factors in the evolution of signalling’. This elegant thesis constitutes an extraordinary body of work. Shana has already published in top international journals, including a paper in Nature Communications, in which she shows that different signalling systems seem to be evolutionarily stable in different bird species, and describes how this is driven by ecological differences. Another paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides the first clear support for how sibling conflict can erode selection for honest signalling between offspring and their parents. Shana combines attention to detail with an understanding of the bigger picture, which is extremely rare in researchers at her career stage. Since completing her PhD, Shana has been awarded a prestigious fellowship from the Simons Foundation at Columbia University. We have no doubt that Shana will be at the very forefront of future research in behaviour and evolution, and it is our pleasure to present her with a cheque for £1000, kindly sponsored by the Marsh Christian Trust.